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Though it likely was not channeling a vinyl decal on the back of an 18-wheeler, Reagan's message can be boiled down to "keep on truckin'." Persevere. Keep on keepin' on.
When he later commented on the speech, he said he knew he had to convince the American people, specifically all of the children who were never going to eat a bomb pop again, "...that life does go on and you don't back up and quit some worthwhile endeavor because of tragedy" (source).
He was basically saying, "I'm still truckin'. NASA's still truckin'. So you'd better keep on truckin', too."
…just with a little more finesse.
Presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan deliberately used lyrical language in her speech for Reagan in order to appeal to the American people by relying on sentimentality.
Reagan's well-crafted delivery of a well-crafted speech was a transparent political maneuver to improve his public approval ratings.
President Reagan hopped on the ol' boob tube to do some major damage control after a devastating rocketship disaster and reassured America that going to space was still an awesome thing to do.
Since seven people had just died, Reagan opens his speech on a rather somber note. He talks a lot about how awful it is when sudden tragedy strikes and pays significant tribute to the freshly deceased Challenger Flight Crew. He makes a point of honoring their bravery because being an astronaut takes some intestinal fortitude (in every sense).
He makes a smooth segue into promoting the benefits of NASA, which are spectacular, heroic, and trailblazing. At the same time he very strategically speaks directly to the "schoolchildren of America" (23) who witnessed the disaster on TV, attempting to comfort them and reduce the number of sleepless nights to follow.
He rounds out his discussion of NASA with a verbal salute to the employees of the space program and adds a quick promo for the American values of honesty, freedom, and, exploration.
Reagan starts to tie things up by getting a little fancy, invoking Sir Francis Drake as a predecessor of the Challenger Seven in the quest for human progress and adventure.
Finally, he concludes with a poetic citation that gives everyone the vapors.
Sky rockets in flight don't always mean afternoon delight, but a little thing like a catastrophe isn't going to keep America grounded.