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Slipping the Surly Bonds

Reagan's Challenger Address

By Mary E. Stuckey

Publication Year: 2006

Millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, watched in horror as the Challenger shuttle capsule exploded on live television on January 28, 1986. Coupled with that awful image in Americans’ memory is the face of President Ronald Reagan addressing the public hours later with words that spoke to the nation’s shock and mourning. Focusing on the text of Reagan’s speech, author Mary Stuckey shows how President Reagan’s reputation as “the Great Communicator” adds significance to our understanding of his rhetoric on one of the most momentous occasions of his administration.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Library of Presidential Rhetoric


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. ix


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p. xi

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Ronald Reagan’s Address to the Nationon the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986

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pp. 3-4

"Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle..."

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pp. 5-12

"January 28, 1986, was cold. Far too cold, as it happened, to attempt a safe flight of the space shuttle. Yet the attempt was made, with disastrous consequences for the astronauts—Michael Smith, Richard Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and..."

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chapter 1

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pp. 13-29

"The Challenger address is a peculiar speech. Ask most of those who remember it—which is nearly everyone who heard it on the evening of January 28, 1986—and they will tell you, 'it’s a great speech' or 'it’s an eloquent speech' or even 'it’s the best speech Ronald Reagan ever..."

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chapter 2

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pp. 30-59

"On October 4, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, and the space race was on. The original Sputnik was followed by another fl ight the next year, this one carrying a dog (named Laika). Soviet dominance in the early years seemed unquestioned. It was also threatening, both ideologically..."

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chapter 3

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pp. 60-81

"Americans are proud of their nation’s technological accomplishments and scientific prowess, which are widely considered integral to their nation’s self-identity.1 When that sense of pride is threatened, it can be deeply upsetting to American psyches. Such was the case..."

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chapter 4

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pp. 82-103

"Despite initial appearances, the Challenger address is neither simple nor straightforward. Rather, it is complex and achieves its ends through indirection. As we have seen, it was written in response to two specific exigencies. The fact of the crew’s horrific and very public deaths required..."

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pp. 104-107

"A rich and complicated text, the Challenger address offers windows into a variety of intellectual traditions. Through a close examination of its references to them, we see how the remarks illuminate them and what they tell us about the possibilities for future research."


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pp. 108-111


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pp. 112-129

Select Bibliography

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pp. 130-136


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pp. 137-140

E-ISBN-13: 9781603445597
E-ISBN-10: 1603445595
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445127
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445126

Page Count: 152
Illustrations: 1 b&w photo.
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Library of Presidential Rhetoric
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OCLC Number: 636788822
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Slipping the Surly Bonds

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Discourse analysis -- United States.
  • Challenger (Spacecraft) -- Accidents.
  • Space vehicle accidents -- United States.
  • Reagan, Ronald -- Oratory.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American.
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