Being interviewed on CNBC during the 2008 financial crisis should have been a highlight of my career. I had been invited to the studio in Manhattan to explain why the New York State Insurance Department, of which I was then superintendent, was trying to regulate risky derivatives. I had prepared my thoughts and practiced my key points in advance. I was sure I was ready. But when the interview was over, I felt no afterglow of triumph. Instead, I found myself sitting in my car, stunned.
The unthinkable had just happened: I’d stuttered on live TV.
One minute, I was comfortably talking about credit-default swaps—and then suddenly the words wouldn’t come out. Before a nationwide audience, in the middle of a deepening global economic disaster, I was completely stuck, as if in a black hole, for what seemed like an hour.
Eventually I could speak again, but the experience was deeply upsetting. On the Tappan Zee Bridge on my way home, I called my father. There I was, at the age of 45, needing to talk with my parents about what had just occurred. This is what stuttering can do: It can make you feel like a struggling 8-year-old in an instant.
Joe Biden has performed an important service by drawing new attention to the challenges people who stutter face as we move through life. In a recent article by The Atlantic’s John Hendrickson, the former vice president courageously discussed his own struggles with the problem. Biden wrote about his stutter in a 2007 memoir and talked about the issue in speeches, but in interviews he mostly avoided answering questions about it in any depth.