• Show Notes

Dear Reader,

This week’s note is not about politics, the law, or some current event. It’s about a historical footnote that moved me this past week. Maybe you know the background story. I certainly didn’t. So I thought I’d share it.

I happened upon it last Friday evening, just before dinner. I was reminded by someone that it was January 28th and that this was the anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. On that date in 1986, on live television, the Challenger exploded in mid-air on its ascent. The blast killed all seven crew members, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. I was a senior in high school, but I wasn’t in class for some reason. Maybe I was sick; maybe I was playing hooky; I don’t remember. I watched the launch at home in my bedroom, on my black and white RCA television set. Like everyone else, I was beyond shocked. Maybe I shrieked; maybe I cried; I don’t remember. The feeling of loss was very heavy in the country. 

As it happens, President Ronald Reagan was supposed to report on the State of the Union that night. But the state of the union was sad and pained and grief-stricken. It was not the time for politics. So instead Reagan delivered a short address to console the country, and it was near-perfect for the moment. He spoke to the families of the crew who were mourning; he spoke to the schoolchildren of America who witnessed a schoolteacher die; and he spoke to all citizens who wondered what the future of space exploration might be.