The first debate in the 2020 presidential election was about as close to a metaphorical train wreck as one can get — and, as Democratic nominee Joe Biden stated, "so unpresidential."
It’s ironic to think that people were worried about the former vice president’s stutter going into the Sept. 29 match-up since he was barely able to get a word out before President Trump interrupted him. Still, Biden’s lingering speech impediment continues to be a popular topic of conversation as the nation nears Election Day.
Why does Biden stutter?
The politician has struggled with a stutter since he was a child and recalled being bullied about it throughout his youth, including by a Catholic nun in middle school. Biden particularly dreaded one classroom exercise that required the students to take turns reading passages out loud.
"I could count down how many paragraphs, and I’d memorize it, because I found it easier to memorize than look at the page and read the word. I’d pretend to be reading," he said of his internal prep work in an interview with The Atlantic.
The 77-year-old vividly remembers the text he was reciting when his schoolteacher interrupted him. "The paragraph I had to read was: 'Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentleman…' And I said, 'Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man who—' and then the nun said, 'Mr. Biden, what is that word?'"
He knew that she wanted him to say "gentleman" instead of "gentle man," but before he could continue, the nun asked mockingly, "'Mr. Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s that word?'"
Though that moment had a long-lasting effect on the future senator, he didn’t allow his stammer to prevent him from pursuing a high-profile career. "Be mindful of people who are in situations where their difficulties do not define their character, their intellect," he expressed. "That’s what I tell stutterers. You can’t let it define you."
Biden is passionate about mentoring fellow stutterers.
A speech given by 13-year-old Brayden Harrington proved to be one of the highlights of this year’s Democratic National Convention because it revealed a side of Joe Biden that the public rarely gets to see.
"About a few months ago, I met him in New Hampshire," Brayden shared, referring to his first encounter with Biden at a campaign event in February. "He told me that we were members of the same club: We stutter. It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president."
The teen explained that Biden invited him backstage and spent a half-hour giving him tips on how to control his stutter. "He showed me how he marks his addresses to make them easier to say out loud. So I did the same thing today," Brayden said, flipping his paper over to show the scribbles.
"I'm just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me feel more confident about something that's bothered me my whole life," he noted. "Joe Biden cared. Imagine what he could do for all of us. Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to. Someone who cares."
This story still brings tears to our eyes.