'Buh-Biden': Bullied at school for his stutter, US President Joe Biden overcame it nun-the-less

Joe Biden has learnt to live with his stutter, but still remembers the days when he was bullied for it at school.

Biden thinks of his stutter as an ‘incredible asset’, here’s why
© Chris Jackson / GETTYIMAGES
Biden thinks of his stutter as an ‘incredible asset’, here’s why

Joe Biden has a stutter, and has been dealing with it his whole life. He has struggled giving speeches due to the speech impediment, and has been taunted because of it - most notably by his competitor, Donald Trump.

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Biden does not speak often about his stutter, and when he does it is usually in support of organisations that help people cope with speech impediments and to inspire others. However, over the years he has given some details on his battle with this issue, the bullying he has faced over it, and how he eventually overcame it.

Biden bullied at school for his stutter

Biden was bullied at school for his stutter and in a revealing interview with John Hendrickson for The Atlantic, he describes a horrible incident that happened when he was in middle school. He still remembers it. He was asked to read a paragraph that went:

Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentleman. He laid his cloak upon the muddy road so the lady wouldn’t soil her shoes when she entered the carriage.

The nun who was teaching the class wouldn’t let his hestitation over a certain word slide; she wanted him to say gentleman rather than gentle man. The nun called him out in front of the whole class:

Mr Buh-Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s the word?

Biden, not one to sit there and take the humiliation, got up and went home in protest. Hendrickson asked the American President how that moment has made him feel; he summed it up with one word. Void.

Biden’s family’s support

The story goes that his mother than drove him back to the school and marched up to the nun to tell her:

If you ever speak to my son like that again, I’ll come back and rip that bonnet off your head.

Joe Biden’s sister has said that the bullying her brother endured at a young age set him in the perfect position to face opponents such as Donald Trump, who has called Biden ‘tongue tied’ and ‘another low I.Q. individual’ on X. Valerie Biden Owens said:

Trump is a bully, and Joe has been standing up to bullies his entire life… Joe’s stuttering, I think, is one of the principal reasons — a major, major, major reason — that he is the good and compassionate and kind man that he is.

How Biden overcame his stutter

In his memoir, Biden writes about his desire to overcome his stutter. He mentions an uncle who had the same issue and used it, in Biden’s eyes, as ‘an excuse for everything he didn’t accomplish’.

He never had therapy, but took the advice of his teachers. Often, people manage to speak more fluently when reciting from memory. So, that’s what the current POTUS did: he recited swathes of Irish poetry in front of the mirror so he could identify and correct any facial distortion that often comes with a stutter. He can still recite poetry off the top of his head today.

Though Biden has made some verbal missteps in his career, he reckons his stutter has taught him many skills. In a 2016 speech he said:

It makes you focus on what the other person is made of, what may be on their mind. It’s an incredible asset in my business.

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Sources used:

Los Angeles Times: Joe Biden’s childhood struggle with a stutter: How he overcame it and how it shaped him


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