Study Guide

Peggy Noonan in Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Address

By Ronald Reagan

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Peggy Noonan

Read Our Lips: Schmagoogie

You're probably thinking, "what the what is a schmagoogie? Is it a type of cheese spread? Is it a variety of marsupial?"

Close, but not quite.

It's how speechwriter Peggy Noonan describes her place in the White House at the time of the Challenger Disaster: "I was a little schmagoogie in an office in the Old Executive Office Building" (source).

Despite her self-professed low ranking, Noonan was given the challenge of writing Reagan's Challenger Disaster address. And while she was sometimes referred to as "that girl" by White House Chief of Staff Don Regan—yes, there was a Donald Regan and a Ronald Reagan—she was actually a adult woman with lots of professional experience. "That girl" was an ultra-smart word wiz. (Source)

All That "That Girl" Did

Having worked in radio throughout the 1970s and early 1980s and having taught Journalism at NYU, Noonan could bust out an article or news report in no time flat. So, it wasn't as if she rolled in off the street one day and started writing speeches for Ronald Reagan. (Source)

Noonan came to Reagan's White House in 1984 and quickly rose in the ranks as a respected and capable wordsmith with strong conservative leanings that reflected her Irish Catholic upbringing.

Her first recognition by Reagan himself came just four months into the new job, after she penned his speech for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, which was extremely well-received. Reagan even sought her out personally to give her his praise. From then on, Peggy and Ronnie were tight, and she stuck around for his second term in office, getting promoted from speechwriter to Special Assistant to the President.

Noonan recalls that on the day of the Challenger Disaster, shock and chaos overtook the White House. Removing herself from the pandemonium, she holed up in her office to begin working on Reagan's remarks for later that day. Focused and adroit, she churned out the short-but-sweet speech that is the "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Address."

No Such Thing as Half-Past Noonan

Pegs continued to be a speechwriting rockstar, and it's been suggested that if there was a Nobel Prize for speechwriting, she would be the obvious winner. (Source)

In addition to the famous phrases that distinguish the Challenger address, she is also known for having coined several other expressions. "A kinder, gentler nation" and "a thousand points of light" are both highlights from a speech she wrote for George H. W. Bush's presidential campaign, as well as the sassy "read my lips: no new taxes."


Still active in the U.S. political scene, Noonan is the author of several books and makes regular appearance in the news media.

We think it's safe to say that she can now be considered a big, giant schmagoogie.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...