The impact of Joe Biden

The article's author, Adam Wright, beside a picture of Joe Biden

27th November 2020

Adam Wright addresses some of the criticism towards Joe Biden, and tells us what a soon-to-be-President who has been open about his stammer means to him and the stammering community.

As a regular user of the social media networks for the stammering community, it was last year that I started to see more posts about a man called Joe Biden. Not being overly interested in politics myself pre-Covid, I didn't really know who he was. Fast forward a year and it turns out he will soon be the President of the United States of America!

Joe Biden, the soon-to-be most powerful person in the world, stammers like me. How empowering. 

As the race for the White House intensified, my interest grew. I would pay more attention to the news when he was on and do my own research on him online. 

But does Biden stammer?

Firstly, let's cut to the chase and ask the million dollar question: does Joe Biden actually stammer? When he talks, he appears to be fluent with his speech. But the answer for me is quite clearly yes, he does! 

I have now watched many a video of Joe Biden and the way he describes stammering — only a person who has lived those experiences could know those things. The shame, the guilt, the loneliness and the fear lived with daily are highlighted in an incredible video of Joe Biden talking to an audience, which you can watch here. The President Elect clearly experienced many challenges with his speech during his younger years. 

Joe Biden, the soon-to-be most powerful person in the world, stammers like me. How empowering.

I have seen some people comment that they don't think it's very helpful to them as individuals that Joe Biden appears fluent, as outsiders can take the opinion "he can do it, why can't you?", and as a consequence feel the pressure to conform. 

And this is why knowledge is key. We need people to know that fluency can vary in different situations. I wonder, when Biden is relaxed and having dinner with his family and therefore not consciously aware of his speech, how apparent his stammer is then?

So does it matter that he no longer currently appears to stammer overtly? The answer for me is a categorical NO!

'Overcoming' his stammer

The articles I found online about Joe Biden included headlines like 'overcome', 'beat', 'used to' and 'cured' when referring to his stammer. As Stamma/BSA recently highlighted with its 'Find The Right Words' campaign, this is not very helpful language. 

Mr. Biden has said himself he still has to think and consider his stammer daily whilst planning his speeches with regular pauses. The stammerers among us also know the covert behaviours we display. There were incidents during the campaign where Donald Trump ridiculed Biden for 'forgetting names' or getting descriptions wrong. We will never know the real truth if this was a result of stammering but a lot of us know the lengths we go to, avoiding and switching words to hide our stammer. 

As with myself, accepting the fact that he stammers has clearly been key to Biden's growth and confidence.

These incidents occurred during presidential debates where the pressure is on and you can't control the pace and flow of conversation. Whereas standing on a podium alone, you are in control of everything. I'm sure if I focused on my learnt techniques enough, I could deliver a public speech without overtly blocking. But I also wouldn't be worried if I did block; stammering is a part of me and it is what I do. 

A young lady sitting on a bench looking at the camera, with the words 'Share your story' overlaid.

An inspiration

The best Joe Biden comment I have seen is from an online discussion he had with Emily Blunt for the American Institute for Stuttering (watch the video here). In it he describes stammering as a gift, and he goes on to say that it's taught him so many things. You and me both Joe!

As with myself, accepting the fact that he stammers has clearly been key to Biden's growth and confidence. He also goes on to comment that by stammering we are not doing anything wrong. I love this comment; we didn't choose to stammer, did we! 

Would Joe Biden relate to a 14-year-old me? Probably not to be honest, I wouldn't have looked at him and thought he was like me. But does Joe Biden relate to an Adam Wright today? A 100% he does! The difference is that today I am much more aware of stammering, including the effects and causes and that is why stammering awareness and the Find the Right Words campaign is so important. 

I want the kids of today and the people who stammer in this world to be inspired by the President of the United States of America. I certainly am. 

More about Adam can be found in a documentary he made, 'Living with a stammer', which you can watch here.  

(Joe Biden Image courtesy of: The White House)

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