Biden overcame a stutter

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Beatrice Pascual Macias I

United Nations (EFE).—President Joe Biden sometimes stutters. He does it very subtly, dragging or repeating some of the words that went almost unnoticed this Wednesday in his magnificent speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden, 79, managed to almost completely overcome his stuttering with a lot of discipline. As a child, he practiced reading poetry in front of a mirror to identify facial expressions associated with stuttering, and now, as president, he carefully plans in advance which pauses he will make in each speech.

It’s a technique that appears in the film The King’s Speech, one of Biden’s favorites, and depicts the determination with which King George VI of England battled his stutter to be able to give speeches on the radio, like that pivotal speech in 1939 in which Britain announced war in Germany.

US President Joseph Biden delivers a speech at the UN General Assembly. EFE/EPA/Jason Senes

The president, who attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI, two days ago, made some very noticeable pauses during his big speech to the United Nations, the second of his presidency, which raised high expectations due to the war in Ukraine.

In a speech that lasted almost half an hour on the big stage of global diplomacy, Biden denounced that Russia wants to wipe Ukraine off the map and called on the world to act decisively to stop Russian aggression, which “clearly” violates fundamental UN principles.

While he’s learned to deal with his stutter, Biden’s words betray him, especially when he’s tired, as he himself admitted in the 2020 presidential campaign.

US President Joseph Biden delivers a speech at the UN General Assembly. EFE/EPA/Justin Lane

His rival, Republican Donald Trump, ridiculed Biden’s stuttering; but the Democrat ignored this and, instead of intimidating, attacked his opponent for being a “thug”.

Biden made several speeches to stuttering youths, and during the campaign he befriended Braden Harrington, a 12-year-old with speech problems, whom he met at an event in New Hampshire and who a few months later was the guest of honor at the Democratic National Convention.

“Joe Biden made me feel confident about something that has been troubling me all my life,” the little boy said in one of the convention’s most touching speeches.

In his nearly half-century political career, Biden has rarely spoken about his past stuttering, and each time he did so to inspire others.

US President Joseph Biden Addresses the UN General Assembly EFE/EPA/Jason Szenes

This speech disorder, as he himself admitted, determined his character. As his sister Valerie reported in the Los Angeles Times in 2019, stuttering and dealing with it has made Biden more empathetic, able to feel more compassion for others when they are struggling with something.

In the United States, about three million Americans suffer from varying degrees of stuttering, defined as the involuntary repetition of sounds, syllables, or words.

In addition to Biden, other leaders and celebrities have also suffered from speech impairments throughout history. Examples include former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who had difficulty pronouncing the letter “s”, or actress Marilyn Monroe, whose famous husky voice was the result of her efforts to overcome her stutter.

Web Edition: Juan C. Ochoa

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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