WASHINGTON (AP) — Even in a week filled with emotional endorsements of Joe Biden, Brayden Harrington’s stands out.
The 13-year-old boy sat in his home, speaking to a cellphone camera and reading, carefully, from a piece of paper. He looked up and told the world how the former vice president, by speaking about his own experience, had helped him overcome a difficult challenge.
“We stutter,” Brayden said in a video that aired Thursday, shortly before Biden accepted his party’s presidential nomination on Thursday’s final night of the Democratic National Convention. The Concord, New Hampshire, teen got stuck briefly on the “s” sound and bravely worked his way through the word. His face showed strain but also determination to force out the sound.
“It’s really amazing to hear that someone became vice president” despite stuttering, Brayden said. “He told me about a book of poems by Yeats that he would read out loud to practice.”
Biden has spoken frequently about how overcoming a stutter was one of the hardest things he’s done in life. Brayden and Biden met at a February CNN town hall in Concord, where Biden spoke about learning to cope with a severe childhood stutter. He’s talked publicly through the years about the anger and frustration of being mocked by classmates and a nun in Catholic school — and how that motivated him to work to overcome it.
“It has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup,” he said at the town hall.
After that event, Biden invited Brayden backstage to talk more about learning to control a stutter. Biden noted that he’d practiced by speaking as he looked at himself in the mirror. He also gave the boy a speech he’d prepared for delivery, complete with markings he’d made on its pages that showed where he had time to take breaks and pauses so that the words would come out more smoothly.
Brayden held up that speech for convention viewers on Thursday.
“I’m just trying to be a kid,” Brayden said. “And in a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me feel more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life. Joe Biden cared. Imagine what he could do for all of us.”
“Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to,” he added.
Biden has talked about his stutter often on the presidential campaign trail and how it sometimes returns on certain words, especially if he’s tired.
After he talked about it during a Democratic primary debate in December — and even started to make the sounds of a stutter — then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders ridiculed Biden on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted and Sanders apologized. Biden said afterward that he had no regrets “because I know what it’s like to be humiliated.”
Biden’s sister and longtime political adviser, Valerie Biden Owens, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that, as tough as it was on him as a child, stuttering helped Biden emerge a stronger man.
“The stutter at the time was horrible for him. But I think it was a great gift, because he did not let the stuttering define him,” she said. “He did not let somebody else’s opinion of him and description of him as a lesser person define him. What he developed as a result of that, this little boy, he developed a backbone of steel.”