COMMENTARY - President Biden starts off his second year in office with a press conference, and is raked over the coals on his answers.
The pundits declare his age is an issue. He may not be mentally fit to hold office. He cannot think clearly. He cannot formulate answers.
In my last months as a junior citizen, on my way to be officially registered as a senior citizen and need to apply for Medicare, I feel the passing of time. If we are lucky to live long enough, we all will feel the weight of the years upon us as we slow down physically and mentally.
This is not to say once we become senior citizens, if we get there, we are useless human beings. But the United States’ fixations with youth, the new and fresh, if you are the aged, pick your age, you are treated as lesser humans, whose worth declines with each passing day. Nothing is more powerful in the media, on all platforms.
As the nation ages, there will be more senior citizens, and we will not back down from discrimination.
It is ageism, age discrimination, suffered at the workplace, in public, socially, culturally and in families. From the moment he became president, Biden has been subjected to ageism in the press, and the more conservative the worst.
Ageism is dripping over the presses critiques of Biden’s January 19, 2022, news conference.
But the harshest were the critiques on his mental health. His halting speech and gaps, to me, reflects someone gathering their thoughts before speaking, and before speaking is a key issue missed by these pundits.
Biden is a stutterer. Through great effort, even heroic, he has mostly overcome his stuttering. It does emerge once in a while, but overall he has mastered it. But to do this requires a slowing down of the thought processes of a stutterer’s brain. This is not a debilitating mental issues like manic depression, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues, but a brain which operates differently.
In the heat of a press conference, Biden needed to slow himself down to physically compensate for his stuttering. If one listened to Biden’s answers without gouging him through age discrimination and mental health ignorance, he also paused to give thoughtful answers which led to logical paths on how past actions, those good and bad, and how he will proceed in the future.
The nation had four years of the fast talking salesman ex-President Trump, with non stop ramblings, his own demonstrations of strange speech patterns, and willful ignorance by recommending injecting disinfectant, along with strong doses of light, outside and inside the body, to fight COVID.
After four years of the salesman ex-president selling and pitching whatever he wants, including the stolen election through his Art of the Steal, global warming is a hoax, and so forth, that Biden, the current president, thinks before speaking is a jolt back to reality on how things should be. This disturbs some people.
Biden is not the only stutterer of someone with speaking impediments to stand on the political and world stages.
Famous People Who Could Have Used Speech Therapy
Many business actors, actresses, executives, professional athletes and even political leaders had speech problems from stuttering to lisping. And many could use speech therapy. King George VI was so ashamed by his stuttering that he sought out a speech-language pathologist and through the treatment significantly improved his public speaking.
Do you have any idea how many people suffer from speech impediments and could use speech therapy? Or do you know how many famous people suffered from speech impediments? As you read through the list below, keep in mind one thing. These people didn’t let their challenge prevent them accomplishing amazing things some of which still impact our lives today!
James Earl Jones
The famous actor James Earl Jones has appeared on television, on Broadway and in several movies. Perhaps he is most well known for his voice as Darth Vader in Star Wars. Others know him as the voice of CNN. But Jones is not ashamed of his speech impediment. He is proudly featured in the Stuttering Foundation’s Famous People Who Stutter brochure.
Michael Phelps is undoubtedly one of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time. He is the proud owner of a record 22 medals (18 of them gold!). He confesses that as a child he was teased about his speech problem. He admits that “When I talked fast, I’d drop my Ls and add Ss to words, and if I tried to tell people I didn’t have a lisp, I’d usually lisp the word lisp,”
Tiger Woods became one of the most successful professional golfers of all time at a very young age. Although “Tiger” as he is fondly referred to suffered from a stutter as a child, through hard work and practice he was able to get beyond it. He would do whatever it took, even talking to his dog.
Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 until 1955. Aside from literally saving the European Continent from the Nazis during World War II, Churchill was a statesman and orator of note. He was always working to overcome impediments which consisted of both stuttering and a lisp.
Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd President of the United States. He was a political philosopher and a real Renaissance Man. Despite suffering from a lisp and a slight stutter, he authored the Declaration of Independence. Also, Jefferson achieved distinction as, among other things, a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, inventor and founder of the University of Virginia.
Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton is the most famous scientists in history. He founded the three laws of motion along with principles of Universal Gravitation. Many scientific theories over the past 350 years have been built upon his work. Newton requested Parliament’s windows be shut so the people outside wouldn’t hear his stuttering. Speech therapy would have helped!
(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and former president and executive director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra.)