From the very beginning of civilization, communities followed their leaders. Namely, people who knew how to take responsibility for those around them and could give the right speech to convince them of the correctness of the chosen path. A well-written and well-delivered speech is an ideal tool for communicating a position to colleagues and subordinates. For the correct composition of a speech, the nine Dennings elements of springboard narrative are suited. Their importance lies in succinctly emphasizing the use of simple delivery for complicated matters (Holtel, 2019). A satisfactory example of their use is Reagan’s speech in 1986, dedicated to the disaster of the shuttle Challenger. The disaster was associated with damage to a solid fuel booster element and resulted in the death of all seven crew members. Due to the scale and shocking fact of the disaster, Reagan rescheduled his Union speech to address the American nation (Little, 2019). In his speech, he successfully embodied three elements of Dennings, which made his speech imposing and accurate.
The first Dennings principle explains that the idea being communicated by the speech should be clear and helpful. In Reagan’s speech, he has it embodied the matters clearly. Precisely, he recites the disaster not as an obstacle to the main goal, the study of space, but as things that always happen to the pioneers. The President emphasizes that the painful experience has been learned and that the knowledge of extraterrestrial space will continue:
I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America… 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 faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave (2:14-2:35, Reagan Foundation, 2009).
With these words, he made it apparent that Americans must learn from this experience to become braver and strengthen their spirits. This was the idea of change: explicit and beneficial. The second element is also visible here. It manifests itself in several elements of speech simultaneously, such as in mentioning the catastrophe itself and the story with Sir Francis Drake. Thus, both narratives took place in reality, which makes them both truthful and influential in the eyes of the listener.
Moreover, in Reagan’s speech, there is an application of the third principle, the use of the point of view of a single protagonist. However, it should be noted that the principle is not fully implemented because Reagan chose not so much one person as the main protagonist of the narrative of his speech but the entire American nation. The President speaks of himself, and at the same time, as from a part of the whole nation. It should be understood that despite the incomplete observance of the Dennings principle, the speech was extremely successful in its goal. Hence, Reagan conveyed condolences to the citizens of the United States in the context of the nationwide tragedy and grief for the lost discoverers.
In conclusion, it is important for a society to have a leader and for a leader to be able to correctly compose his speech, and this cannot be done without the nine elements of Dennings. In the course of the President’s Raegan speech about the Challenger Disaster, the first three principles of the nine stand out vividly. The first principle announces that the change idea being communicated by the story is clear and worthwhile, and Reagan’s words about exploring space despite the catastrophe satisfy this element. The second principle can be seen in the President’s words about the catastrophe in general and in the example of Francis Drake in the past. The third principle, albeit not completely, is also present, although changed appropriately for the context.
Holtel, S. (2019). Springboard stories: spark an audience to action. Proceedings of the 24th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs, 9, 1–6. Web.
Little, B. (2019). Reagan delayed the 1986 State of the Union to mourn the Challenger Disaster. HISTORY. Web.
Reagan Foundation. (2009). Challenger: President Reagan’s Challenger Disaster speech – 1/28/86 [Video]. YouTube.