The Effects of Ronald Reagan’s Rhetoric in Challenger Speech

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About this sample


Words: 992 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Feb 9, 2022

Words: 992|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Feb 9, 2022

On January 28, 1986, a NASA space shuttle named the Challenger was set to launch for its outer space mission. Unfortunately, the booster engine failed and caused the shuttle to break apart only seconds after it was launched, which took away the lives of seven astronauts. During the same day, President Reagan held an immediate public speech that was televised nationwide addressing the devastating incident of the Challenger shuttle. Surprisingly, whenever someone asked those who remembered watching the speech, it is most likely that they would tell you “it’s a great speech” or “it’s an eloquent speech” or even “it’s the best speech Ronald Reagan ever gave”. Upon viewing former President Reagan’s Challenger Address speech, it is quite clear that the former president was trying to use his national speech to comfort the American citizens in regards of the tragic incident of Challenger space shuttle’s explosion. However, the speech is not only comforting for the Americans at the time, but it also demonstrates President Reagan’s superior capability in taking a tragic rhetorical situation and turning it into an opportunity. Nevertheless, in order to better understand how President Reagan’s Challenger Address gained its popularity and sympathy among the Americans, it is essential to look back at the rhetorical situation at that time and break down the delivery and style of President Reagan’s speech.

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As soon as the space shuttle was dismantled, concerns regarding NASA’s capability in spaceships development and doubts regarding whether or not America should continue its expansion in outer space research programs arose. Meanwhile, the tragedy also stirred up heartbroken emotion across the nation. Under this rhetorical context, President Reagan responded by holding a White House Address to the Nation that target the Americans as its audience. Additionally, President Reagan also used his dear to the audience’s heart style of speech to deliver his condolences and a strong message to defend NASA and the reason why America must continue its research in outer space.

The first reason why the Challenger Address left such a terrific impression among Americans is because the speech target the right audience. During the time when the shuttle dismantled in front of the American people, it is critical to first comfort the people to avoid further distrust emotion from flourishing. Therefore, within hours, President Reagan showed up on the television and recreate a speech that went over what exactly happened, government’s condolences, and what the government and NASA was planning to do next. Finally, President Reagan left a powerful statement at the end of his speech, stating that: “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 faint hearted. It belongs to the brave” (Challenger Address). Through President Reagan’s speech, the government successfully comforted the worried citizens by offering them a transparent information about the tragedy, meanwhile, giving the citizens reasons and confidence to believe that the government knew what they were doing and the courageous mentality of the astronauts should be carried along. At this point, the famous Challenger Address has taken its first step of turning a critical situation into an opportunity in its rhetorical situation.

Despite fulfilling the audience’s demands for an explanation of the incident, the delivery and style approach of President Reagan is also an impressive highlight during the Challenger Address. The delivery and style of President Reagan’s Challenger Address aimed to be filled with confidence and reassurance because even though President Reagan could have gone to Cape Canaveral to make a strong statement, he chose to hold his speech to the public in the Oval office in which an intimate, calming, and reassuring atmosphere is demonstrated. This creates a critical rhetorical speech ambience because the goal of this speech is not only to acknowledge the tragedy of the incident, but to also encourage the concerned Americans. Therefore, by presenting the speech in the Oval House, where President Reagan could display a public image of the situation is under the government’s control, he successfully revived the confidence of the citizens. In contrast with staying at the Oval House, if President Reagan went to Cape Canaveral to hold his speech, where the accident occurred, the unpredictable and chaotic environment there could have caused further apprehension to the already turbulent situation. In addition to the delivery of the speech, President Reagan’s language remained clear and dear to the audience's heart. During the Challenger Address, President Reagan spoke with easy-to-understand words to avoid any misunderstandings and he kept using positive wording to encourage the audience to trust the process. Moreover, the bottom line is that President Reagan did not show a sign of fear, defeated, and worries; instead, he applied as many positive and encouraging words as he could in his speech to guide the worried Americans away from panic and apprehension. At the end of the day, by combining the right delivery ambience and positive speaking style, President Reagan successfully turned the space shuttle incident into a rhetorical opportunity where the worried Americans were brought together, regrouped, and connected with the government once again.

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As one of the most popular and praised speeches, President Reagan’s Challenger Address is an exceptional example of how to take an exigence of a rhetorical situation and turn it into an opportunity. By reflecting on the success of Challenger Address, President Reagan first accurately targeted the worried Americans as the audience who needed his speech the most at the time. Then he proceeded with presenting himself in a reassuring environment to calm the audience. Finally, he delivered his speech with positive language to connect the audience back with the American government, securing his goal for the public address. Therefore, the Challenger Address proves that the quintessence of raising a good speech under rhetorical situation includes: clear understanding on who will be the targeted audience and how to appeal to the targeted audience.  

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The Effects Of Ronald Reagan’s Rhetoric In Challenger Speech. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
“The Effects Of Ronald Reagan’s Rhetoric In Challenger Speech.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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