U.S. Presidents are leaders of their parties, but that is only one role among many that the U.S. Presidency has evolved to serve. There are times when it is crucial for the President to be seen as the symbol of the nation and the representative of all Americans, whether some Americans are able to concede that fact, or not. Some of the greatest Presidential speeches were inspired by national tragedies, as a Chief Executive was forced by events to serve as “Comforter-in- Chief,” and to to set aside partisanship in times of tragedy to speak words that remind us that, despite what may be passionate differences, we are all Americans.
No President was better qualified by his experience and talents to fulfull this role than Ronald Reagan, after we all watched the Space Shuttle Challenger launch and then explode into pieces on that beautiful, cloudless day.
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 Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.
Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together. Continue reading