By: GIANNA LUGLIANI
Presidential-elect Joe Biden has faced his fair share of criticism regarding his ability to give speeches throughout his time as a politician. Oftentimes, people will use this as a way to characterize him as too old to be running for president or even go as far to say that he is losing his mind. While people are entitled to their own opinions regarding his speech-giving abilities, it is important to know that his stutter is not something Biden has full control over.
A stutter is defined by repetition, prolongation of sounds, and interruptions between words- known as speech blocks. Although this might make someone appear unprepared in their speeches, it has been proven that “a person who stutters knows exactly what they want to stay, but has difficulty with the flow of the words.” So even though the fluency of Biden’s words isn’t always the smoothest, it has nothing to do with his cognitive abilities or memory. Other side issues that come along with stuttering include rapid eye blinking or lip tremors, which can also impact one’s ability to talk. People who deal with this also often repeat words or syllables unintentionally. Sometimes, they are only able to say certain words or phrases after excessive physical difficulty. People like Joe Biden that have lived their whole life accommodating to this speech issue have become experienced in finding ways to deal with it. For Biden, he will often have to replace words that he was planning on using, having to come up with a close synonym on the spot. It is hard to always think of an accurate word to replace the original word, which can make some things he says sound slightly less polished than he intended.
Stuttering can worsen when the speaker is put under pressure or in a setting that increases their nerve level. This presumably made the presidential debates particularly more difficult for Biden as he had to deal with the constant interruptions of his answers from Trump. This setting made it harder for Biden to prepare and plan out moments to take breaths. His stuttering has not had an incredibly large impact on his political career as a whole though. Over his lifetime, he has learned how to make it seem the least noticeable as possible, using the strategies such as replacing words and taking quick pauses to regain control over his vocal chords.
Joe Biden has spoken out about his stutter in attempts to help young people with the same condition and has been associated with the Stuttering Foundation of America to give motivational speeches to them. Biden’s positions as Vice-President and soon-to-be President have been highly inspiring to kids who feel limited by their stuttering disabilities. Biden has addressed fellow stutterers by saying, “When you commit yourself to a goal and when you persevere in the face of struggle, you will discover new strengths and skills to help you overcome not only this challenge, but future life challenges as well. I promise you — you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you have every reason to be proud.” One thirteen year old boy in particular, Brayden Harrington, has recently spoken out about how Joe Biden helped him overcome his own stutter in a short video posted on the internet. He also talked about how Biden showed him how he marked up his speeches to make them easier to say, which is the same thing the boy in the video did with the paper he was reading off of. Although Biden’s speech isn’t necessarily the biggest deal for him or the people who listen to him, it does mean a lot for the kids with a stutter to see someone like them become the next President of the United States.