Why Won’t He Just Say It?
In the January/February issue, John Hendrickson wrote about Joe Biden’s stutter—and his own.
As a fellow stutterer, I was moved by reading your personal story alongside Joe Biden’s, and seeing how you have each approached your stutters differently. You handled the subject matter with complexity and sensitivity, and it brought tears to my eyes.
I stutter, and my 4-year-old son stutters, too. I recently told my husband that I couldn’t stand Mr. Biden’s narrative that I stuttered, I worked so hard, and now I don’t. As Hendrickson writes, it’s a message to kids and adults who stutter that they must distance themselves from a piece of their identity to succeed.
I know I have been uncomfortable when others stutter, or have anxiously laughed or tried to “help.” I want to apologize to those I have demeaned with my lack of understanding.
I now see Biden in an entirely new light and will be cheering him on from the sidelines. As a candidate, he’s not as progressive as I’d like—but I’ll listen more closely for content and less for form when I hear him now.
John Hendrickson replies:
I had no idea what to expect when we published this article. To date, I’ve received more than 500 emails about it, and new messages arrive daily. These letter writers—of all ages, races, and genders—have opened up about their various trials and tribulations, and how they’ve tried to make peace with the shame that often accompanies the neurological disorder of stuttering. I don’t know what the answer is, other than to keep talking about it. During a CNN town hall in February, Biden received an audience question about stuttering and spoke about his journey in ways he had previously avoided on national TV. The response was profound. I’m not sure what the future holds for the former vice president, but I’m glad his stutter is no longer the elephant in the room.