Friday, August 29, 2008

Can a stutterer become vice-president?

A clear no! No-one with a noticeable stutter resulting in impaired communication can become vice-president or president. Can someone who stuttered as a child and is now fluent for all practical purposes? Yes! The mantra of the stuttering community is: Stutterers can do any job including being a politician or actor. And they parade in front of us Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, or now Joe Biden. But have you ever heard them stutter severely in public? No, they are speaking fluently, and at best hesitantly. They are no stutterers in the eye of the public. At best, they have worked hard to minimize their stuttering so that it sounds like normal speech and does not impair communication, and at worst, they just happen to recover and attribute an event close to recovery for their recovery. But how many of us have worked hard but still stutter noticeably and have to endure the well-meaning but annoying sermons of the recovered?
Yes, stutterers can get into high power offices, but either by connections, an inherited power base or ability for background networking and dealing. And those offices are the hidden ones rather than in public view. It is a despite and not a because of.


Anonymous said...

Tom -

You are absolutely freaking right on this point. The "real world" has no understanding for, acceptance of, or patience regarding those of us who are PWS and stutter when we speak. No way Biden is considered for VP in the US if he stutters...No way...Never, uh-uh, ain't gonna happen no matter what. Organizations like the SFA and the American Insitute for Stuttering really do PWS a great dis-service by using all those "FAMOUS" stutterers who never stutter as their "models". Kids in therapy and their parents are so mislead by this "marketing" ploy. And that's what it is...A marketing ploy for those organizations. Money and professional stature moves for those organizations. Such BS...

Anonymous said...

Churchill's stutter was obvious and well-known in his early political years. Please see

Keith Sharp

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous above. The SFA continually touts examples of PWS who don't appear to stutter at all when they speak... What a terribly misleading example of the typical PWS that has had "therapy". What is also as misleading by the SFA information is that almost none of the "stutterers" they present as models have never ever had the "therapy" endorsed and advocated for by the SFA.
I think the SFA makes the plight of PWS worse off...

MommaWriter said...

I was delighted to see this subject in your blog! Just days after Biden was chosen as Obama's running mate, a friend if mine e-mailed me to say. "Biden was a stutterer! If he could outgrow it, there's hope for your kid!" And she went on to tell me how she can't believe John Stossel was a stutterer once. *sigh* It's so frustrating to try and explain over and over that these things don't just go away, for the most part. I even found an interview with John Stossel where he said that he still stutters sometimes. Hey, as long as he's not "live" on TV, no one's going to know, right? And I thought I heard Biden's stutter come out just briefly when he was speaking recently as well. (Although I'm not sure what's considered regular ol' stumbling over your words vs. stuttering if the stutter is truly mild and during a really important speech.) Are there really cases where people are spontaneously "cured" later in life or is it, as I suspect, that some people are just able to effectively learn how to control it...and they're working at it all the time? After all, if actors can control stuttering while working, it seems like that'd be very similar to giving a politic speech...

I'm not sure the SFA is really doing such a disservice using these people if they're just very good at controlling their speech. It's just that there's *so* little information or education about just what's going on. If everyone knew that sometimes John Stossel still stutters, that'd be different than them believing he's "cured."

I've always been told there's no cure for stuttering. It seems cruel to provide any hope along those lines...both to PWS and their parents! I have a lot of hope that my son will make his way in life, but I've learned to accept that the stuttering is very unlikely to disappear.


Mike said...

Anonymous; you seem to be quite bitter towards the SFA and other like-minded organisations.

Back to the point at hand though. I really don't see why not. Vice-president, yes. President.. no. A vice-president doesn't do debates, he campaigns under the umbrella of the president. So essentially he just gives speeches and interviews.

I managed to give speeches without stuttering a single syllable until I was about 14 and then it collapsed but that's another story for another day. My point is, that just because one stutterer may have trouble saying a speech doesn't mean all do.

One thing which is abundantly clear when it comes to stuttering is that there are no universal rules. Some people stutter more when talking with their friends than family and vice versa.

It seems a little harsh to write people off, as I said in a previous comment.

There are only a handful of "famous" stutterers out there and that's because only a handful manage to control their stutter effectively and get into mainstream media.

Obviously, anonymous has a point, few people have patience for those who stutter. But then again it depends what for a stutter you have. How bad it is, when it affects you, where it affects you.

There are so many variables to take into consideration with just one persons' stutter that I just find it hard to believe one could just label all stutterers as "people who have no chance whatsoever in becoming vice-president"

I feel that if I truly put all my effort into my stutter I would be able to control it, but I don't. So I don't find it hard to believe that the ambitious people which become politicans and actors have spent endless time working on their stutter and have managed to control it.

Anonymous said...

Mike; If you work for the SFA or have friends in that organization, Sorry to offend you. Was not meant to offend. I have had a # of negative therapy experiences with SFA recommended therapists. Nice people, poor therapists. And I do recognize it was my responsibility and decision to work with them. "Failure to practice techniques and total commitment to practice all the time" were my downfall...You know -always the PWS, never the therapy or therapist...

Bitter? No
Dreamer? No
Honest? Yes

Honesty can offend people.

That being said... absolutely this point is true:

If a person demonstrates periods of "bad" stuttering,(outside of a position working in the IDEA section of the government), NO WAY EVER would that person be considered for an influential political position in the US Government...and certainly not a president or Vice president. Anyways, this is just what I think. No one has to agree with me.

Tom Weidig said...

>> I'm not sure the SFA is really doing such a disservice using these people if they're just very good at controlling their speech.

They are good to draw attention, but I am not sure they are good role models.

Are they really good at controlling their speech? Or do they just happen to recover but haven't done anything for it?

Best wishes,

Randzig said...

Its one thing to parade these people around on behalf of PWS to show the world we are very normal, but its another thing to display them as the normal ones. Statistics show they are not the normal ones. People don't just get cured. In almost all cases of these "shining examples" I've have found that they were likely not real stutterers. Meaning that they had moderate to severe disfluency but not actually a PWS.

Mike said...

anonymous: You didn't offend me I was merely wondering where your comments were coming from :)

How does one effectively diagnose a stutter? It's not like you get a medical piece of paper saying "I stutter" so it's true I guess that this is all quite ambigous.

Randzig said...

I couldn't disagree more. It is very easy for me to tell when someone has a true stutter.

Anonymous said...

Mike -
Thanks for the clarification. Hope I answered why/where I was coming from re: the SFA.

I feel strongly about this point - The SFA, AIS, ASHA and all their designated "specialists" (quite sure I am missing many other speech professional organizations) are quite wrong when they think having a degree or certification standards met ot attendance at a workshop or conference - whatever -as proof they are capable of working with PWS or CWS. There are a ton of us "failures in therapy" out there that just might disagree. :-) ! Then again, they are the professional...PWS fail because they don't practice enough, don't follow the plan as the professional directs it - Always the fault of the PWS; never the fault of the therapy or therapist. What BS. I suppose I am a bit tarnished! (I must get off this now. It's like getting Tom started on Women. ;-) !

I heard a presenter at a self help conference say this in a presentation: "Robert West (must have been a famous speech professional) said back in the 50's 'The only ones who need a definition of stuttering are speech & language pathologists; Those who stutter know what it is.' "

Rings true to me.

Anonymous said...

My, aren't you the pessimist?

The facts, however, are somewhat different. Yes, stammering is an impediment to political office, as it is an impediment to all public speaking, but it is not necessarily a bar to positions of political leadership.

The best example of this remains Winston Churchill - who despite his later recorded speeches, DID have a pronouncable and occassionally severe stammer throughout the majority of his career.

And to give you a contemporary example, Andrew Duff MEP is the elected leader of the UK Liberal Democrat group in the European Parliament, and has great respect in the Liberal Democrat party - because, despite quite a moderate stammer, he has strong knowledge of and instinct for EU politics. And, whatever you think of his politics, Andrew Duff took a leading role within the Convention which drafted the EU's ill-fated Constitutional Treaty.

A video of him is here - which is quite typical of his public speaking performances - and as you can see he is (like me) more what one might call "coping" rather than "recovered":

Anonymous said...

Chrisnelson -


This has just been my experience, and my thought formulation on this matter. I would disagree that your perspective is "the" right and only view one can have. I do appreciate the opportunity to voice what I think and feel. Disagreement is fine - even welcomed! We all have that right, don't you think?

Regarding politics - Thanks for the you tube of Andrew Duff. Really good.

I don't believe I implied Biden - or anyone - should be barred from any political position because he/they did/do stutter. American politic's and the public shaping the politicians - I don't believe -would not allow for a "coping" PWS to be a figurehead. Just ain't gonna happen. (This, again, is just my view.)

Churchill - as a man - had great courage. Where would England be if it were not for him?

Biden is no Churchill...or Duff for that matter.

Anonymous said...

You do of course have that right - I was just expressing the alternative opinion, perhaps coloured by my own political involvement, that you were being a little too pessimistic about stammerers' chances.

To clarify with respect to Biden, my use of the term "bar to office" was meant solely in respect to a stammerer's acceptance by society. I didn't get the impression that you feel that a "coping" stammerer is not qualified to be Vice President, only that he/she would not be accepted by the public.

We will of course have to wait and see about that - since as far as I know there are no "coping" stammerers in a position from which a credible presidential bid could be made. Nonetheless, just as race and gender appeared to be insurmountable obstacles just a few years ago, I'm just not convinced that it would be impossible for a "coping" stammerer to reach higher office if he/she were competent enough.

Anonymous said...

I once saw Samuel L. Jackson stuttering in an interview exactly at the moment when the journalist asked him about his stuttering. He talked about it naturally, and it´s amazing regarding to a public person, but he stutered in his answer.
I´m his fan forever!