“Stuttering is the only handicap that people still laugh about”
Joe Biden was absolutely correct when he pointed this out.
Yes! The former vice president of the US and a candidate in the 2020 US presidential election has a stutter.
Joe Biden’s stuttering is no secret.
In 2020, Biden is an expert in maneuvering the words and clearing the blocks smoothly on most days.
Even with decades of practice in avoiding stuttering, Biden sometimes gets caught on certain words.
His lingering stutter on the debate night in Detroit is hard to miss.
How Has the Political World and Media Reacted to Joe Biden’s Stuttering?
During his first debate, he was quite unprepared when Senator Harris questioned his collaborations with segregationist senators.
His answers that night weren’t just meandering, but also quite difficult to follow due to his repetitions and blocks.
Opposing party politicians and even journalists didn’t think twice to criticize Biden for his inability to express himself on stage and defend his point of view.
Popular personalities took to Twitter to mock him and question his ability to run a country when he seemed to lose control of his speech during a mere debate!
Yes, even a popular politician was mocked due to widely held misconceptions about stuttering.
His speech disfluency was not only ridiculed publicly for the world to see, but his integrity, self-control, and capabilities were questioned by extrapolating his presumed inability to control words.
Fox News took this a step further and created a mini-montage of the moments Biden stuttered, stopped, and faltered.
And that wasn’t the end of it. More material surfaced all across the internet as Biden stuttered more during the Atlanta debate in November.
Media moguls, reporters, and politicians took the opportunity to ponder about his mental and physical health.
There were reports on his degenerating memory, the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, and so on for months.
Interestingly, even a month ago, there were more articles on the web about Joe Biden’s aging and dementia, than his childhood stutter.
Do You Know about Joe Biden’s Stuttering?
Childhood is always difficult when you are different from the other kids in your class or block.
Biden was smart, intelligent, and emotionally mature. However, he wasn’t spared from bullying either.
The first blow came from one of his teachers, who was also a Catholic nun.
Biden had to recite a passage from The Soul of America by Jon Meacham.
He still remembers the passage, a clear sign that his memory has not been idled by dementia.
As a child, Joe Biden found it much easier to memorize an entire poem or a section from a story and recite it from memory.
That’s what he was doing on that day when he said, “Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man”, but the teacher wanted him to say “gentleman”.
“Mr. Buh-buh-buh-Biden, what was that word?” – she asked.
Biden left the classroom and walked home that day.
Joe Biden still thanks his mother for being supportive and standing up to his teacher that day.
And that stuck with him years later when he was a teen.
In high school, Biden was a popular athlete and the class president.
At Archmere Academy in Delaware, Biden received the nickname “Dash”. Sadly, it didn’t refer to his speed, but his speech.
His classmates thought his speech was similar to that of Morse code “dot-dot, dash-dash-dash.”
It was no relief that Biden had already begun to overcome it by then.
Being a strong athlete and a good student didn’t help with shame.
According to Biden, shame is a big part of growing up with a stutter, even when there’s a support system.
Old classmates and neighborhood kids forget the cruel nicknames, but names like “Stut” or “Stutterhead” stick around forever in a person’s memory.
Did Joe Biden Receive Stuttering Therapy?
Biden tried and failed at conventional speech therapy when he was in kindergarten. One more testament of speech therapy not being effective for everyone.
However, personally, he never gave up.
He recited Yeates and Emerson before bedtime all by himself and noticed how the rhythm helped him remain fluent.
Although he couldn’t have known it at such a young age, he was already practicing a form of speech therapy that a lot of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) recommend.
Interesting research published in 2013 in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience by Fujii and Wan states the role of rhythm in recovering from speech disfluencies like stuttering.
Joe Biden Denies Claim that Verbal Missteps Were Due to Stuttering
In politics and life, speech disfluency is perceived as a weakness.
That night in Detroit, Biden was targeted by Kamala Harris when she began with the words, “I’m not saying you are racist, but…”
The words pushed the already tired Biden off track and the sudden attack triggered his verbal misfires throughout that debate.
It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time politicians target Biden for his speech disfluencies.
Over the months following the Detroit debate he has been criticized and mocked on Twitter and during public campaigns by Trump.
His son Eric Trump, daughter-in-law Lara Trump, and American talk-show host Sean Hannity made fun of his stuttering openly on public platforms.
Sadly, for Biden, his opposition sees his stutter as a vulnerability.
Several members and supporters of the Republican Party have seized the opportunity to question Biden’s cognition and sentience citing his advanced age.
Why A Stuttering Presidential Candidate Is A Big Deal?
A lot has gone down in 2020, but one of the best things to happen was we got a US presidential candidate who stutters.
He has served as the Vice President of the US for 8 years between 2009 and 2017.
Before that, Biden was the US Senator for Delaware from 1973 to 2009.
Why do we think that’s important? Simply because Biden is the living proof that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to despite your speech disfluencies.
Some countries like the US classify stuttering as a disability, but it doesn’t have to be an impairment.
The choices you make should never be driven by how you speak!
We have Joe Biden who goes around the country inspiring hundreds of thousands, delivering public speeches, interacting with children who stutter, and motivating them to not limit themselves.
The world needed someone like Biden to show that people who stutter (PWS) are just as intelligent and capable as the ones who speak fluently.
What does Biden Say About His Stutter?
According to Biden, who mostly speaks about his stutter in the past tense, “I find myself caught on certain words when I’m tired or stressed out.”
It is only natural for PWS.
Even those who have received extensive speech therapy and have moved past their major blocks and fear of speaking can find themselves “stuck” on old, feared-words when they are going through an emotionally or physically trying time.
During a speech at the American Institute for Stuttering in 2016, he said that he overcame his stuttering problem without formal speech therapy.
His interactions contribute significantly towards the normalization of stuttering.
Joe Biden’s Advice to Those Struggling with Stuttering
Over the years, Biden has made several appearances on TV and given several interviews that covered the subject of his childhood stutter.
Biden never really claims that he has had professional therapy, but he does attribute his fluency to his teachers, who were also nuns at his prep school.
During the 25th anniversary celebration of The Lab School of Washington, Biden said, “God’s gift to me was my stuttering.”
He embraced his stuttering completely and he has since inspired hundreds of kids to do the same.
Recently, Biden’s conversations with a teen Brayden Harrington went viral for all the right reasons.
Biden showed the kid his speech which had the notes on where to pause, where to exhale, and where to stop.
He took stuttering and normalized it for a teenager who has trouble saying his own name!
We need more people like Biden who inspire children and adults alike.
According to Brayden’s father, his son has been struggling with speech disfluency and he has been bullied on multiple occasions.
You can see Brayden thank Biden for boosting his confidence regarding something that has bothered him his entire life.
Biden’s advice to people struggling with stuttering is “don’t let your stutter define you or limit you,” which is exactly what his mother used to tell him every time he headed out the door.