Tag Archives: stuttering

Watched this boy with empathy

I couldn’t help but feel my heart pounding hard as I watched a 13-year-old boy tell the world about the kindness extended to him by Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Brayden Harrington has a stuttering issue he must confront every day. He delivered his remarks with supreme courage during the virtual Democratic Party Convention this week. He got most of his remarks out without a hitch. Not all of it, though.

Biden overcame a stuttering issue as he was coming of age. He would read poetry, forming words carefully to avoid getting caught up in a stutter. I admire his courage, too, in fighting through the debilitating impediment. I also will pray for the future progress of young Brayden as he makes his way through life.

I also would tell him, if given the chance, that he must prepare himself for more of the mistreatment I am certain he has endured already from his peers. I won’t call them his “friends,” because real friends wouldn’t subject him to the bullying and humiliation he likely will experience … and has experienced already.

I know how it goes. I felt it, too. I once had a serious stuttering problem. I cannot say it is totally eradicated. Words still trip me up on rare occasions. As a teenager — indeed, well into my high school years — I struggled with speaking, particularly in front of large groups of people.

Two of my classmates in high school heard me once stumble while trying to say my own last name during a class project. They just split a gut, man! For the rest of my high school years these two fellows would mimic that moment of supreme embarrassment.

Well, that was then. The here and now is quite different. I have conquered that demon … more or less. Oh, those two guys? One of them is now deceased. I saw the other one at my 50-year high school reunion in 2017. We chatted amicably as if nothing ever happened during the bad old days. I hope he reads this blog and recognizes himself in it.

Hey, I don’t hold any hard feelings toward him now. I damn sure did back then.

So, I salute young Brayden Harrington for standing before the entire world and speaking out on behalf of a politician who knows the battle he is enduring.

Could I ever do such a thing when I was 13 years of age?

Not on your life!

Modern-day hero comes to Biden’s defense

A real-life, modern hero has come to the defense of a politician who in recent times has endured some amazingly cruel taunting over a condition that once plagued him as a child.

Joe Biden once suffered from a debilitating stutter. His political foes are taking aim at him over if, mocking a condition he fought hard to overcome. The latest is Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump, the son of the current president of the United States.

Lara Trump thought it was clever to implore the former vice president to “get it out,” to finish whatever thought he sought to make. Her crass quip drew scattered laughter from the crowd.

Now comes Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed that jetliner full of passengers on the Hudson River, to Biden’s defense. Sully wrote in a New York Times op-ed essay that he, too, suffered from stuttering while growing up in Denison, Texas. What’s more, he endured bullying, taunting as a child. He wrote that those memories rushed back when he heard about Lara Trump’s taunt.

Sully wrote: This culture of cruelty is what drives decent people from public service, and what makes millions of Americans recoil from politics, and even from participating in our democracy.

Read his essay here.

I have written already about how I feel Joe Biden’s pain. I, too, stuttered as a child and had to endure taunts from junior high school and high school “friends” who found it funny that I couldn’t get certain words out of my mouth. I worked through it all by myself. I got no help.

But my point is that Joe Biden doesn’t deserve to be mocked. He deserves to be honored for the courage he showed in whipping the problem … and in talking openly about it as a prominent American politician. Those who mock him should salute him.

Coming clean on a one-time personal secret

The recent dust-up involving a former White House press flack and a former U.S. vice president brings to mind a reason I have much empathy for the ex-VP.

Joe Biden endured a stuttering problem as a boy. He powered through it. He mentioned it during the Democratic presidential candidate joint appearance the other night, eliciting a stupidly snarky response from Sarah Huckabee Sanders … who later apologized for the way she responded to Biden’s acknowledgement.

I find myself, thus, feeling a bit of empathy for Biden. Why? I, too, endured a stuttering problem as a boy. It wasn’t a debilitating stutter. I was able to communicate most of the time. Indeed, I was able to do so almost all the time. Certain sounds, though, did get in the way. The sound of the letter “k,” for instance, at the beginning of certain words is an example of that.

Think of the hideousness of that example. My last name begins with that sound. Therein lies the source of my embarrassment. I once had to stand in front of a roomful of high school students and say my name. I couldn’t get it out. Two of those classmates of mine thought that was just so damn funny; they had a riotous time making fun of me.

Therefore, I was bullied for the rest of my time in high school. It wasn’t fun, man.

I have gotten through my own stuttering issue. I hesitate to call it a “problem,” because it didn’t inhibit me from enjoying a modestly successful career over the years. I, do, though admire those who are able to get past far more debilitating ailments than the one I endured.

Joe Biden happens to be a prominent American politician who is now seeking the presidency.

If nothing else happens to his candidacy — be it a self-inflicted wound or something that someone else reveals about him — I am inclined to cut this guy with whom I share a common experience a little more slack than I otherwise might be inclined to do.

Biden to ex-WH flack: ‘It’s called empathy. Look it up.’

Sarah Huckabee Sanders has shown that she learned some cheap-shot skills while working for Donald J. Trump.

During a 2020 Democratic presidential joint appearance this week with six other candidates for the party nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden talked about how he overcame a severe stuttering problem.

He told of how he visits with children with similar issues, saying that a children might tell him “I-I-I-I can’t talk. What do I do?”

Sanders, the former White House press secretary, decided to tweet out a snarky message, saying via Twitter: “I I I I  I have absolutely no idea what Joe Biden is talking about.” Biden responded by saying that he was seeking to employ some “empathy,” and urged Sanders to “look it up.”

The smart-alecky response from Sanders drew the expected rebuke on social media. To her credit, she did apologize, saying she didn’t know about the former VP’s stuttering history and that she should have “made my point more respectfully.”

Indeed. But the problem with social media and with Twitter serving as a platform to deliver these messages instantaneously, the damage gets done and often is difficult to repair.

Take better care, Sarah Sanders, when you decide to take shots at political foes. They tend to cheapen themselves rapidly.