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Biden offers advice to boy with stutter while campaigning in Milwaukee

Last year, Harry Abramson wrote President Biden a letter, asking him one big question: How did he overcome his stutter?

According to Biden’s campaign, Harry, 9, wrote to the president for advice — saying that maybe, if he learned how to control his stutter, he, too, could one day be president.

Biden, who regularly talks about his struggles with a stutter and the work he’s put into overcoming it, wrote back. And, on Wednesday, he met with Harry during a visit to Milwaukee to personally deliver some advice.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do anything,” Biden told Harry, according to a Biden campaign video. “You can do whatever you want to do.”

Biden has spoken at length about how he was made fun of as a child for stuttering, experiences he’s said helped him understand how to deal with bullies — including former president Donald Trump, who has repeatedly mocked Biden for his stutter, most recently at a campaign rally on Saturday. During his rambling speech, Trump asked the crowd sarcastically if Biden would “bring the country t-t-t-together” while talking about Biden’s State of the Union address. Transcripts of the speech show that Biden did not say that.

Trump’s remarks immediately drew scorn from disability advocates, who called his mockery a demeaning form of bullying and “dehumanization.”

On Wednesday, the president told Harry that, when he was younger, he used to be bullied because he used to “find it hard to talk on the telephone or stand up in front of people and talk.”

“These people would make fun of it, like this president making fun,” Biden said, referencing Trump and his mockery. “But remember — look at me — you’re smart, you’re handsome, you know what you’re doing.”

The president then told Harry the story of Brayden Harrington, a teenager Biden met during his 2020 presidential run who, like Harry, had contacted the former vice president for advice on handling a stutter. By August, Brayden was delivering a powerful address at the Democratic National Convention describing how Biden had inspired him to reach higher.

Biden gave Harry a few tips Wednesday on how he navigates his speeches with a stutter.

“I put a little mark on my speeches,” Biden said, showing Harry a copy of his remarks and the places in the text where he adds pauses.

Harry, I’ve struggled with a stutter all of my life. Thank you for telling me about yours, and don’t let anyone tell you it will stop you from achieving your dreams.

I’m proud of you. pic.twitter.com/IVITt9vifJ

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 14, 2024

Trump’s remarks over the weekend were not the first time the former president has taunted Biden for his stutter. In January, Trump accused Biden of stuttering through a speech and then play-acted as if he were Biden. Biden did not stutter in the speech Trump was referencing.

About 3 million Americans stutter, a communication disorder in which speech is not fluent because syllables or words are repeated or prolonged. The causes of stuttering are not fully known, but genetics can contribute. Stuttering has long been misunderstood and stigmatized.

Biden has spoken openly about how he has overcome the kind of stutter that was debilitating for him as a child. He gave a speech in 2016 to the American Institute for Stuttering, sharing the childhood shame he felt but also crediting it for widening his perspective.

“I learned so much from having to deal with stuttering,” Biden said. “It gave me insight into other people’s pain, other people’s suffering. It made me understand that everyone, everyone has something they’re fighting to overcome — and sometimes trying to hide.”

Lauren Weber and Carolyn Y. Johnson contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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