Vice President Biden to Chinese Audience: on Public Speaking, Stuttering & Cross-Cultural Exchange

Boston: Massachusetts Statehouse, Statue of Horace Mann 5/2/11

In today’s Politico Playbook, Mike Allen reports an interesting exchange between US Vice President Joe Biden and a Chinese student (link added):

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN, speaking to a student today after remarks on U.S.-China relations, at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China:

Q: “Thank you, very much, Your Excellency Vice President. I see you not just as the vice president, but a veteran and accomplished public speaker. … [W]hat role has public speaking played in your life? … And secondly, what role do you think public speaking will play among our youth of the two countries and to our bilateral relations?”

BIDEN: “[Y]ou compliment me by saying I’m an accomplished public speaker. I don’t know whether you’ve had an opportunity to see a movie that has gotten worldwide circulation called ‘The King’s Speech.’ Well, but for the royal blood and the money, that could have been me. I was a serious stutterer when I was in school as a child, as a high school student, and even into college. And I practiced very, very hard by myself, standing in front of a mirror, trying to annunciate without contorting my face. When you think about it, whether it’s China or America, the only impediment people feel free to make fun of and humor of is a stutterer.

“If I had a deformed face, you would not make fun of my face. But if I stood before you and ta-ta-talked to-to-to you like that, you’d do what you’re now — you’re smiling. And it’s offensive. It’s offensive. Because it is a serious impediment. When one stutters, people believe they are stupid. People believe they are not worth much. And there’s tens of millions of people around the world trapped with a keen mind and big heart, trapped inside of a body that cannot articulate what they feel. … The thing that always embarrasses me is — and in the back of my head, I’m embarrassed in front of you — I’m embarrassed I can’t speak to you in Chinese. I would — seriously — I would rather be able to honor you and show my respect for you by speaking your language, as you honor me by speaking mine.”