Rhetorical Analysis of Ronald Reagan's Speech on the Space Shuttle 'Challenger' Tragedy

Rhetorical Analysis of Ronald Reagan's Speech on the Space Shuttle 'Challenger' Tragedy

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Contextual analysis is made up of three basic components; intended audience, setting and most importantly purpose. Authors often times consider and work each contextual piece into the construction of their given argument. An argument is not powerful if audience preference is not a main concern, if the setting isn’t taken into consideration, or if the purpose is not relevant to the current situation. On January 28th, 1986 the shuttle challenger exploded 73 seconds into its take off. President Ronald Reagan wrote a critical speech to address the tragedy that had struck our nation that day. It is highly evident in his address that kept audience, setting, and purpose in mind. He comforts a worried public using calm tone and simple yet effective diction to convince the American nation that it’s necessary to go on and continue the space program and ultimately the scientific revolution.
The day of the challenger explosion Reagan had originally planned on speaking to the nation to report on the state of the union, but this unfortunate event caused him to have a sudden shift in plans. He had to quickly put together a speech appropriate for the occasion and construct an argument to defend the NASA program. The shuttle challenger explosion caused many Americans heartache as well as great uncertainty about what would become of NASA. In the speech, Reagan spoke to the nation as a whole and tried to console everyone as best he could. He honored the men whom risked and ultimately lost their lives in this horrible accident. He also addressed the families of the seven brave men directly in his speech.
Through this national address Reagan hopes to reach out to the public and encourage them to keep their faith firm in the American space progra...


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...imes when we are faced with national tragedies we are left at a loss for words. We look upon our leaders to help us through these difficult times, to have all the answers. We listen to what they have to say with vulnerability and uncertainty of what’s to come next for our country. Reagan was aware of all these factors when he gave his famous address. He was aware that in order for any argument to be considered a powerful and successful one it needs to be thought through and take into consideration the outside factors that are affecting it. Reagan’s challenger argument was one that had a clear audience, distinct setting, and finally the argument had a definite and in this case necessary purpose. By Reagan utilizing these three elements and effectively combining them he created a memorable speech that is now widely considered a masterpiece of public communication.

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