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Valerie Biden Owens knows firsthand how hard Joe Biden has worked on his speech. She’s seen how being a stutterer affected her older brother her whole life, and she has some thoughts on how his public speaking as President is criticized today. In a new book, Growing Up Biden: A Memoir, Biden Owens shows her brother some sisterly love and shares insight into how their childhood shaped the lives they lead today, and a new interview about the book sees her reminding the American public that there’s a known reason why Biden’s speech may sound a little different.
She reflected on the negative press when he “falters on a word,” telling ELLE magazine “from the time he was a little boy, he stuttered” and “couldn’t string more than three words together at a time.” So to become President of the United States seems like an incredible feat even if “unpleasant people in this country, the right-wing, Trump people” want to constantly make fun of his speech patterns. Biden Owens defended her brother, reminding people who choose to hurl cruel words at him, “Humiliation has a long shelf life.”
Biden has often talked about the humiliation he felt as a kid, and he still employs techniques, like taking extra pauses in his speeches, to keep his delivery as smooth as possible. In a 2020 CNN town hall, he mentioned how people made him feel about his stutter. “You know, stuttering, when you think about it, is the only handicap that people still laugh about. That (they) still humiliate people about. And they don’t even mean to,” he said as a presidential candidate.
Despite the criticism of people who think the president is suffering from cognitive decline versus a stutter, Biden refuses to let that get in the way of calling his setbacks a gift. “It has a lot to do with who I’ve become. It has a lot to do with what I set out to try to do,” he said in an interview with American Institute for Stuttering. “It’s given me an insight which I otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
Before you go, click here to see our favorite photos of President Joe Biden’s big family.