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> A friend of mine is looking for the source of a quote used by
> President Reagan in 1986 at the memorial service for the
> Challenger astronauts following its disaster.  Part of the
> quote was:  "I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and
> danced the skies on laughter's silver wings....put out my
> hand and touched the face of God."

   The quote was taken from the poem "High Flight" written by John
Gillespie Magee (a World War II aviator, I think British) maybe during
the war. Here is the poem:

                        High Flight
                             by John Gillespie Magee

                Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
                And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
                Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
                Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
                You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
                High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
                I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
                My eager craft through footless halls of air.
                Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
                I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
                Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
                And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
                The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
                Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

As a pilot, I think that Mr. Magee captured the _feel_ of flying most
eloquently. (Flying in a commercial airplane doesn't count - they have to
stay straight-and-level so the passengers don't get upset. You have to fly
in a small aircraft that can do the things the poem describes.) I learned
to fly during a particularly stressful time in my professional career and
it helped to keep me sane.

Every pilot that I know is familiar with this poem. It is available on
posters, with appropriate artwork, from many aviation sources.

It is quite traditional to use the poem at a pilot's funeral.

        Melissa Davis                   Librarian
        Splendora Middle School         Splendora I.S.D.
        P O Box 168                     Splendora, TX 77372
        Internet: mbdavis@tenet.edu     PHONE: (713)689-2853
        CompuServe: 75146,771

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