We think of President Reagan as “the great communicator.” Indeed, he communicated conservative ideas better than anyone. Many of his speeches are memorable, from “the evil empire” to “tear down this wall”.
However, his best speech may not have been political at all.
it happened on the day that he spoke to the nation about the terrible Challenger explosion of 1986:
At 11:38 a.m. EST, on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe is on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger‘s launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, the shuttle lifted off.
Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.
I was driving to a lunch date when I heard the news. I walked into the restaurant and everyone was watching the television. It was one of those moments when nothing else mattered.
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 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 is a wonderful speech and we should watch it in full. It was an awful day but we had a man in the Oval Office who could bring us together.