Who was the intended audience of the Ronald Reagan speech on the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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President Reagan crafted the speech to speak to the nation, as a whole, and also tailored specific parts of it to specific demographics of the population that were impacted the most by the tragedy.  President Reagan speaks in broad terms of mourning that were being shared by so many in the nation.  In explaining how the President and the First Lady "share this pain with all of the people of our country," it reflects how the nation's mood of mourning is a general condition.  

Yet, the President speaks directly to individual segments of the population.  One such group is the people who work at NASA when the President says, "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."  The immediate reaction which called for reducing the scope of the space program was headed off with the President's call to them in the speech.  At the same time, the President speaks to the schoolchildren of the nation, many of whom were watching the launch and subsequent horror on live television, by suggesting that "I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen."  Consistent with his status as "The Great Communicator," President Reagan was able to construct a national message of reflective mourning while speaking to specific portions of the population at the same time.

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