Historical Speeches - The Challenger Address

4 min reading time

President Ronald Reagan once said, that it is easy to give a speech during significant historical moments. Much easier than when you have to speak at the opening of a mall or at a Boy Scouts anniversary event. One of his greatest speeches he ever gave, was after the space shuttle, The Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986 after a 73-second flight. In 4-and-a-half minutes, Reagan addresses a shocked nation. He managed to create a sense of shared connection in the TV viewer's living room with a 648-word story.

In his short speech, Reagan scores high on all nine elements of the ME-YOU-SOMETHING model. He makes personal connection with the ME, he is painfully clear on the SOMETHING and he really focuses on his audience - the YOU.


The connection that Reagan manages to make from the Oval Office is great. He speaks right through the camera. It is as if he is looking directly at the viewer at home on the couch.

What always comes back to Reagan is his profound Passion for progress. His belief that tomorrow will be better and that America can handle anything. In this speech, too, he emphasizes this:  'The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted. It belongs to the brave.''

That Reagan is not only a leader in office, but also a human being of flesh-and-blood, is evident when he shares his and his wife’s shock at the beginning of the his speech: "Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the Shuttle Challenger.


To make one feel and show how great the tragedy is, Reagan reads out the names of the seven heroes. By doing so, Reagan provides the rock hard and painful Evidence of the fact that seven brilliant minds lost their lives in this explosion.

Even in this situation, Reagan still is willing to remind his audience of the need to really reflect on the courage of The Challenger Seven: “But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle.”

His passion for progress is also reflected in his vision of the future: “We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.”


Reagan addresses his Call to action and makes a Promise specifically to the children of America: "And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off. I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.”

Reagan also really addresses his deeply shocked audience. He knows the entire nation says or feels YES when he tells them he shares in their pain: 'We know we share this pain with all the people of our country.' He also specifically reflects on the perseverance of the people who work at NASA (compliment): “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

So you see, even in a short speech, Reagan manages to show something of himself, has a real message, and he really shares it with his audience. In your next story, what do will you do with ME-YOU-SOMETHING?