14th May 2021
As it's National Stuttering Awareness Week over in the USA (10th-15th May), we invited overseas supporter Michelle Paradies to follow up on her article celebrating Joe Biden's election win. So how's the new President been getting on?
There was euphoria in many places in the US and around the world on November 7th when Joe Biden was officially declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential election. In other places there was disbelief and sorrow. One thing was certain however: everyone, whether they voted for him or not, had their wishlist for the new President. As approximately 3 million Americans stutter (source: NIDCD), it would be great for Biden to say something that acknowledges us, his past, and celebrates this week in American history.
Someone told me that this week is National Stuttering Awareness week in the US. It was news to me. I was born and raised in New York and I didn't know that there was a National Stuttering Awareness week. I would have assumed that had such a designation existed, it would be in October to coincide with International Stuttering/Stammering Awareness Day. But no, it is indeed the second week of May as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. You can read that proclamation at the mnsu.edu website.
As approximately 3 million Americans stutter, it would be great for Biden to say something that acknowledges us, his past, and celebrates this week in American history.
Joe Biden has a stutter, though he rarely discusses it, and many Americans don't know about it. The stuttering community in the United States had great hope for even a mention of the topic, ideally within Biden's first 100 days in office. Sadly, we haven't gotten our wish. However, we aren't the only ones still waiting for our wishes to be granted. The country and the world don't hear very much from President Biden, and he has been criticised for it.
Following his inauguration in January, he has given just one high profile nationally televised speech — an address to a joint session of Congress in late April. The speech drew far fewer viewers than similar speeches from past presidents (source: deadline.com). His regular press conferences are conducted by his press secretary. Even the US news doesn't regularly cover his activities. It is a complete change from his predecessors.
To be fair, Biden is very busy these days. He has the humanitarian crisis at the southern border where countless people, including many children, are attempting to enter the US in search of a better life. He is handing out large amounts of money in an attempt to revive the US economy. He is involved in an international dispute over license and patent rights for COVID vaccines and there is also the worsening conflict in Israel and Palestine. Maybe he just doesn't have time to give public speeches and travel around the country making appearances.
Even before becoming President, Biden didn't speak very often about his stuttering and it is unknown whether he still considers himself a person who stutters. It is well known that some people who stutter avoid the spotlight, preferring to shine behind the scenes. Even many people who don't stutter prefer not to be on stage. State governors report in their press conferences that they speak regularly with Biden and are pleased with his actions. So clearly, he is doing something. I wonder if any of the invisibility that many people criticise Biden for is because of his stuttering. Has he consciously made a decision to avoid high profile speaking engagements wherever possible because of his stutter? Many people who stutter do. Has he settled on a backstage role when he would rather be front and centre? I hope not. Too many people who stutter do.
Talking about stuttering would be a great way to begin your goal of unifying America.
Biden said in his inaugural address that he wanted to use his first 100 days in office to begin the long process of unifying the country. He said he wanted to heal the strife and division that proliferated under the previous administration. He vowed to be a president for all Americans, Republicans and Democrats. He hasn't been very successful so far and America remains painfully divided. Many people lost friends over political disagreements during the last election and sadly most of those disputes haven't been resolved. But it is of course early days.
American political commentators talk about the 'purple America' — purple being the colour that results when you mix red and blue. Biden needs to make America purple again. An easy first step would be to acknowledge his predecessor Ronald Reagan's, a Republican, decision to recognise Americans who stutter by issuing his own proclamation commemorating previous advocacy efforts and encouraging people to continue those efforts.
Certain topics don't lend themselves well to 'purple America'. COVID, unemployment and immigration to name a few. These are the ones in the news but they won't advance Biden's goal. Americans want to see their President as a human being. Tell us something about yourself, Mr. Biden. What causes do you support? How has stuttering impacted your life? Get topics that divide out of the news and replace them with something that Americans can relate to. Talking about stuttering would be a great way to begin your goal of unifying America.
(Joe Biden image: David Lienemann - White House (V011013DL-0556), WikiCommons)