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Not acknowledging the tragedy of seven people dying in a hideous engineering accident would be like not acknowledging that an Almond Joy contains coconut...only a thousand times worse. It's a speech about a disaster, guys. Of course it's going to be sad. Its entire premise is one of sadness.
Reagan could very well have dwelled on the gruesome details in his "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Address" like he owned stock in Kleenex. But instead of being weighed down by it, he accepts the calamity and he rallies the nation together. Through collective mourning, he guides people through heartbreak while looking toward to a bright and exciting future.
President Reagan's speech isn't long enough to adequately address the true extent of the Challenger tragedy and it glosses over the necessary condolences to the crew's grieving families.
The president's address to the nation about the Challenger Disaster was an inspiring public message that genuinely and nobly acknowledged the immense loss of the day.
From ear spelunking with a cotton swab to kicking around dust on the moon, exploration is something that everyone does to some degree. Humans have always been insatiably curious, especially about the unknown.
In his "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Address," Reagan praises that willingness to leap into the unknown with the vigor of a flying squirrel. Historically, that wild leap has lead to some of the most significant cultural, technological, and scientific advancements of humankind.
He's also reminding people that while exploration opens up new and exciting worlds, you have to be all-in because you never know where it will take you.
President Reagan's characterization of the Challenger Seven as swashbuckling star sailors is fantastical and misguided in the face of a national tragedy.
"Exploration" is being misused in this context because the space shuttle crew never made it far enough to explore anything. This is false praise in an attempt to clean up a messy situation.
Going where few, if any, have gone before takes some major guts. It's a gamble. Once you're off, going back is no longer an option. Sometimes you discover a room full of pillows and Labrador retriever puppies. Sometimes you plummet into a tiger pit full of hand-hewn bamboo spikes to the sound of frantic bongo music.
Hopefully, it's the former.
Accepting those risks takes just as much courage as embarking on the adventure itself. In "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Address," Reagan is praising the Challenger Seven for their acceptance of the dangers of their mission.
The Challenger Seven were especially brave—it's much easier to be an astronaut today than it was in 1986.
It's inappropriate to speak for the Challenger Seven and assume they were aware of dangers that could not be predicted.