1986: President Reagan and the Challenger speech

We think of President Reagan as “the great communicator.” Indeed, he communicated conservative ideas better than anyone. Many of his speeches were memorable, from “the evil empire” to “tear down this wall.”  However, his best speech wasn’t political at all.  

It happened on the day that he spoke to the nation about the terrible Challenger explosion of 1986.  As you may remember, most of the country fell in love with Christa McAuliffe, a teacher going into space. Also watching that morning were her family and millions of students all over.  It was one of those moments where everyone was cheering the same way. It was awesome.  

The story, however, had a bad ending.  The Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff and a wonderful morning turned into a nightmare.

Around that time I driving to a business lunch and listening to everything on the radio.  I heard the takeoff and the first word of an explosion. I walked into the restaurant and everyone was watching the television. It was one of those moments when nothing else mattered, including lunch.  

Later, President Reagan spoke to the nation about the tragedy, and specially to the children who had seen their teacher blown up in space. Suddenly, you realize why it matters to have a president who can speak from the heart:

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is 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.

It was a wonderful speech and you should watch it in full. It was an awful day but we had a man in the Oval Office who could bring us together.  

P.S.  You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).