Me, Annie Glenn, Joe Biden and what it looks like when an adult with a severe stutter speaks

'Too dumb to talk'

A quick word about this tweet by Glenn Greenwald in response to the video below:

“Is there really anyone willing to step forward with a straight face and say there's nothing wrong here?” Greenwald wrote.

I’m stepping forward, with a straight face and saying there’s nothing wrong. I’m saying that as a 48-year-old man who has dealt with a severe stutter all my life and still do. I know stuttering when I see it. I know because it makes me uncomfortable because I know the struggle the speaker is going through.

Here is Biden speaking at the 10th annual American Institute for Stuttering during the summer of 2016:

Glenn either doesn’t know or doesn’t care, likely because he is on this crazy kick about hating establishment Democrats, so much so that he will mock them for a stutter and call it cognitive decline.

I’ve had people say the same about me, even that I was “too dumb to talk.” Glenn doesn’t care about the complexities of stuttering, how it shows up differently in different settings and different times for reasons that confound even the stutterer.

What do I see in that clip? An adult stutterer getting into a stuttering block and trying to find another word or phrase on the fly to get around that stuttering block, something that is common among severe stutterers. I’ve done it a million times. On our best days, the audience doesn’t even notice we are doing it. On our tougher days, it looks like what you see in that video.

But Biden doesn’t always stutter and spent years with no noticeable stutter, so doesn’t that mean this must be different? For those of us who stutter, we know from our our experiences as well as from our research that stutterers, for reasons we still don’t understand, can have hours, days, weeks, months or even years of seeming fluency only to have it bubble up again even if we do everything we can to avoid it. That has been my reality. After I went to an intensive stuttering therapy boot camp, where I met Annie Glenn, the wife of the famed astronaut John Glenn, I spent several months largely stutter free before my stutter slowly began taking hold again. She, too, stuttered and received speech therapy at the same place I did.

The same thing, spontaneous fluency, happened to me a few years before that without the intensive therapy. Right now, I teach and give public speeches frequently. I stutter every time, it’s just that much of the time the stutter isn’t prominent to the audience even though I am struggling through all sorts of stutter blocks.

Not only that, there are stutterers who have host their own news programs on TV and are high-profile on-camera talent, such as John Stossel and Byron Pitts. Bruce Willis is a stutterer. Take a look at this video of Willis. Does that look like cognitive decline? Or just an adult stuttering?

That’s why I urged journalists to bone up on the complexities of stuttering before Biden took office, so they can better understand what they are seeing. Apparently, Glenn decided not to do that. I hope others don’t follow suit.

In this video, you’ll see me reciting a piece of work I based on Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”:

You’ll notice the words “Too dumb to talk” behind me. That was done on purpose. It’s one of the main taunts I’ve received as a stutterer. I wanted the audience to know that’s what I’m dealing with as I speak. Here’s to hoping Biden decides to one day deal with this head on the way Barack Obama did on race. He’s already spoken about this at the American Institute for Stuttering. I’d love to see a live speech on national TV.