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Communication lessons from the “Challenger” speech (pt 3) – how to sound fatherly without sounding patronising

If you are writing a speech you can learn lots from studying the Challenger Space Shuttle speech – written by Peggy Noonan for President Ronald Reagan in his televised address in 1986.


In previous posts I’ve shared why this is such an effective and powerful speech.

In this post I’ll share a speechwriter’s technique on how to sound fatherly – without sounding patronising.

In part of the speech, Reagan wants to “say something to the schoolchildren of America”

He speaks to the schoolchildren in simple terms – yet I suspect he was also speaking to all the grown ups –  in America, and indeed the rest of the world.

I encourage you to read the full transcript and watch the video in the link to American Rhetoric at the end of this post.

See if you agree with my view that through this technique Reagan can deliver simple messages withou sounding patronising to his grown-up audience.

This part of the speech also contains some of my “favourite” lines – the future…belongs to the brave.

Note these words:

…I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s take-off.

I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen.

It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.

It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons.

The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted – it belongs to the brave.

The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

In my opinion, as a speechwriter, I think this device allowed Reagan to get across the message that the risk  was part of space exploration and that the space program would continue.

Watch his delivery too. Good speechwriting – allows for good speech delivery.

Here are links to other posts on speechwriting “lessons” from this speech.

1.Challenger Speech – the uplifting power of words

2.Challenger Speech – Plan Your Purpose

And here’s the link to the transcript and video at America Rhetoric:

American Rhetoric – Challenger Address


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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.



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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news etc.   I like to help people COPE.



One comment on “Communication lessons from the “Challenger” speech (pt 3) – how to sound fatherly without sounding patronising

  1. efangelist
    January 30, 2017

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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