Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's the Word Wednesday: Ronald Reagan, Still the Master

This Obama Guy is a pretty durn good speechafier. Caught most of his address to the Congress/Nation last nite & liked the whole metaphorical cast of it. Kudos to his speechwriters & to The Prez, as well. Your Humble Scribe understands that he's quite the wordsmith in his own right.

But no one...besides Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, or FDR under so many trying circumstances...could hold a candle to The Great Communicator Himself: The Late, Great, Ronald Reagan.

In case you don't remember, or are too young to know, the above speech, delivered in lieu of the State of the Union on the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded over FLA in 1986, is the quintessential look/listen at the craft of speechafying.

Note Ronnie's bearing; the timbre of his voice; his literary & historical allusions; his simple but eloquent diction; the sympathetic & empathetic connection he makes with his audience. Don't think RR wrote this tribute on the back of an envelope, à la Lincoln at Gettysburg; rather, his Wordsmith in Chief, Peggy Noonan (now of Wall Street Journal fame), gets credit for penning this poignant missive.

Stick with this video...which, because of age, has more than its share of bumps and you can catch la pièce de résistance, which comes at the very end:

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives," President Reagan says. "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."

Chokes Mrs. Scribe up every time. All you English Teacher Types out there...if you don't teach this speech, you should. Why carry on for hours, when you can say what needs to be said beautifully in four-and-a-half minutes?


Julie Eliz said...

Just the phrase "slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God" makes tears run down my cheeks! It absolutely does rank right up there with the great speeches of all time. (We could use a little Reagan now).

Blog Stalker said...

I firmly and whole heartedly echo your sentiments on the late and Great Communicator. Ronald Reagan's speeches can still give me goosebumps when I listen to him. He never seemed like a politician. He was a man of conviction, and agree or disagree, you respected that his positions were based on HIS principles which he never wavered from. Truly a remarkable man.

Have a great day!

Lynda said...

Absolutely wonderful! Thanks for sharing this right now.

Susie said...

This was a very good speech. I wonder how many teachers do include this in their classes?

Marrdy said...

I still get goose bumps. Ronald Reagan was alway the greatest public speaker. I may have to watch this over and over. I remember the first born was 3 weeks home and I sat in my family room watching in disbelief.

Columbia Lily said...

I didn't realize that his speech was where that came from. I was in kindergarten when the Challenger blew up, but I do know that phrase.

Tiffany said...

That's one of those events that you always remember where you were when it happened. Reagan was a great speech maker. He really connected with people.

desi said...

I never heard this speech, but I really could have used it when I was little. I cried when the Challenger blew up. We all watched launches still back then because it was on every station. I miss the simple TV days. I really enjoyed hearing this speech now. I miss Reagan. I thought every president would be eloquent like that when I was little.

Ritch in Love said...

Couldn't drop by hotel didn't have free wi-fi for our laptop.
I SO love Reagan's speeches. His eloquence is practically unmatched. His gentle demeanor is exactly that: Gentle. His words are absolutely heart warming and on such a terrible day (I was only in 2nd grade) he brought hope, calm, and empathy to his country. I'm so glad you posted this moment in history.

Tom said...

Wow. Even Reagan was choking up at the last part. I definitely did. Thanks for sharing this. And like Julie Eliz says, we sure could use the likes of him these days.
I did read Peggy Noonan's book "When Character Was King" about Reagan. It is more a lesson in the times of his life than a biography, but it is good reading for anyone who loves history and longs for the return of true statesmen in a political world of self-serving nincompoops (cool word, that).
I invite you and all your readers to check out a preview of the first chapter of my novel about "a year in the life" of a veteran middle school teacher. It can be seen at
Take care, and thanks again.


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