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When the World’s in Crisis, We Need ‘Grief Leaders’

Here's how to be one

When the space shuttle Challenger broke apart on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, killing all the astronauts aboard, including the civilian who was to be the first teacher in space, Americans were stunned, horror-filled and bereft.

President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to give the State of the Union speech that evening. Instead, his staff called for speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who quickly crafted an address that Reagan delivered in his soothing and sonorous voice. He spoke of grief and mourning, of bravery and spirit, of service and devotion. He said their names. He promised the space program would go forward. He closed with quotes from the poem “High Flight,” telling us that the Challenger crew had slipped “the surly bonds of Earth” to “touch the face of God.” 

That night, Reagan was every American’s president. I was in my early 20s, and I wasn’t a Reagan fan, but I hung on every word. I clipped a copy of “High Flight” from somewhere and pinned it up at my desk.

Please select this link to read the complete article from The Washington Post.

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