During the crisis of John F. Kennedy's assassination, what held together the nation was his wife's presence. That was a continuum. It extended from allowing Americans to absorb the tragedy by way of the pink suit through her regal mourning bearing. If she spoke words, we don't recall them.
In crisis, presence trumps all else. In a brilliant public relations move, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made himself there through radio Fireside Chats. Yes, we remember a few phrases from those but that's about all.
For that horrible first Christmas after my animal companion Nicole died, my business tanked, and it was obvious I would have to sell my house, Amy Karnilowicz offered to spend part of the day with me. Karnilowicz is a cognitive behavioral therapist, with a waiting list, in West Hartford, Connecticut. I didn't take her up on the offer. I didn't have to. She already had demonstrated she was there for me in 2003.
Decades before that, Sister Colette Toler was there for us in the English Department at Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania. That was every time we very young women hit up against life's realities. She didn't need to say much when I didn't make it to the end of the line of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. We just sat on my dorm room bed, with the cookies she bought. As my business was becoming unglued in 2003, she invited me back to Seton Hill to have some good meals together.
During crisis, body language, facial gestures, suitable attire, and a deep inner calm make words so un-important. If my generation didn't have to memorize Abraham Lincoln's speeches in high school, how we would remember him would be entirely through his public bearing during crisis.