In many minds, stuttering is still as humorous and degrading as the Porky Pig caricature. Will people who stutter ever really gain r-e-s-p-e-c-t?
After being ridiculed by President Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2011, Donald Trump appeared more than a little angry. He left the banquet in an apparent huff, not sticking around to network or attend after-event parties.
Some point to that public humiliation as the catalyst that propelled Trump to the presidency, even though he had run for president in 2000 and started considering a 2012 bid before that banquet. I point to it as the catalyst that propelled me to dislike Trump, who I barely paid attention to before then.
My animosity had less to do with Trump’s conservative politics and maniacal, ego-driven style than what he said a day after the 2011 event. Speaking on a Fox News show, Trump avenged the perceived slights by saying Meyers’ delivery “was not good,” calling him “a stutterer” in a derogatory manner.
The video recording did not show Meyers stuttering, and his delivery was well-received with loud laughs and applause. To Trump, calling Meyers a “stutterer” was the ultimate insult for a public speaker, fitting a pattern that would see him publicly mock a disabled reporter in 2015 who had arthrogryposis. Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation, said in 2011 that she had hoped “that this kind of unfortunate comment was a thing of the past.”
Of course, it wasn’t and hasn’t been since — note how professional sycophant and debutante wannabe Lara Trump mocked Joe Biden’s stutter in 2020. But we all can dream.
Hard to trust others
Stuttering, when you think about it, is the only handicap that people still laugh about. — Joe Biden, 2020
It was one of those employee luncheon events where maybe some had been drinking. A sports reporter was moving on to a larger newspaper, and he was asked to say a few words. He mostly did impressions of people he regularly covered on his beat. Some were a little funny, but the biggest laugh of his act came when he imitated a local football coach who stuttered at times. “Y-y-y-y-y-you need to get out there and kick some butt!”
As my face reddened, eyes lowered to the floor and jaw dropped at the boisterous laughter of colleagues, many of whom were around my age of 40, I experienced flashbacks to grade school and junior high three decades before. I saw Brent the Bully kicking me and imitating my blocks as I tried to avoid him while walking home from second-grade class. I recalled the moments of terror right before having to read a passage in class, as some laughed and ridiculed my attempts.
It was another cruel reminder that even those who appear to be friendly will laugh at my speech, mostly behind my back but sometimes even to my face. Ultimately, there were few people I could trust.
My childhood memories are blurred with such slights, from outright teasing to well-meaning teachers who purposely skipped me in answering questions, resulting in both a sense of relief and shame. “In oral reading, he has no speech difficulty, but in classroom discussions he still seems to have difficulty,” my first grade teacher wrote in a report card. I remember how uncomfortably I watched Porky Pig — whose first character actor in 1935 was fired because he stuttered too much for the sensiblities of producers — with friends, embarrassed as I tried to laugh along.
Some were more understanding than others. In third grade, best friend Ken accompanied me to a speech therapy session. That day, we went home and formed a speech club. I read to Ken, and he wrote down the words that I stuttered on for me to practice. Although the club only lasted a few afternoons, the thought of a peer showing that much interest lent hope. But ultimately, it wasn’t until I made the high school basketball team as a junior and underwent a three-week intensive, speech-reconstruction clinic at Hollins University that I gained some confidence and most classmates really started to show some respect.
My adulthood, surprisingly, contains more than a few similar instances as that work luncheon moment in 2000. I can only imagine worse slurs that have been said behind my back. Biden, the former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, regularly faces accusations by Trump, his supporters, and supporters of Democratic rival Bernie Sanders of being senile because of his speech impediment that has plagued him since an early age when classmates called him “Stutterhead.”
Biden critics claim they are not cutting him down for stuttering, while misrepresenting his pauses and substituting words that he suddenly can’t articulate — the result of trying to avoid stammering — as signs of senility or mental decline. But we all know what former Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was doing when she tweeted in late 2019: “I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about.” Many Trump and Sanders followers laughed at her “joke.”
As those who share Biden’s lifelong stutter affliction can attest, his gaffes can be largely attributed to trying not to say words that he has a harder time blurting out. Writing in The Atlantic, John Hendrickson noted how difficult it was to control a stutter, even for people who have largely overcome it. The tactic of substituting words to avoid blocks — called “circumlocution” — can result in odd, seemingly unrelated phrases that some unknowingly mistake for mental imbalance.
In 2019, Biden briefly had trouble getting out “Obama,” then quickly called him “my boss.” Numerous media wrongly claimed he “forgot” his former running mate’s name. Biden is not as energetic as he was a decade ago, which may increase the frequency of such gaffes as he tires and loses focus on not just what he says, but how he says it. People with similar afflictions marvel that he has not had more speech blunders during the brutal, unforgiving presidential campaign.
I still use the substitution avoidance method at times, as Biden does. At times, when I’m tired and not focusing, the blocks are more severe and numerous. It’s exhausting having to remember how to talk at the same time you have to come up with the words. Sometimes I ramble off the topic, searching for the patterns that will return confidence and a semblance of fluency. At those points, it’s not so much the words I’m saying, as saying something, that helps me find a path back.
It’s not just Trump and Sanders backers who mock opponents’ speech impediments like they are middle-school bullies. In 2018, the campaign of Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Jr., viewed as a moderate who tries to distance himself from Trump, released videos that made fun of Democratic opponent Ben Jealous’ speech impediment. Jealous said his lifelong stutter at times makes him substitute words that are easier to say. And sometimes he focuses so hard on how he speaks, rather than what he is saying, that he doesn’t realize he has said the wrong word — such as “Virginia” rather than “Maryland” — until after it comes out. Most people who stutter can relate to such apparent mind glitches.
Hogan’s campaign spokesman claimed the videos were targeting speaking gaffes, not stuttering. But the impact was clear. Some said in public forums that anyone who stutters should automatically not be considered for a high public office. Such a view ignores how many politicians with speech impediments have done just fine in high office, including Biden, Winston Churchill, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., former Virginia Congress Rep. Frank Wolf, and former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield.
From Moses to Tiger to Biden
A stammering man is never a worthless one. Physiology can tell you why. It is an excess of delicacy, excess of sensibility to the presence of his fellow creature, that makes him stammer.
— Thomas Carlyle in a letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nov. 17, 1843
Few human conditions are as enigmatic as stuttering. It is a social phenomenon that has plagued man since the beginning of recorded time.
The biblical prophet Moses reportedly had a speech impediment, although some say he might not have actually stuttered. Greek orator Demosthenes supposedly spoke with pebbles in his mouth and practiced speaking in front of a large mirror to help alleviate a speech problem around 350 BC. British Kings Charles I [1600–1649] and George VI [1895–1952] — whose efforts to employ breathing exercises and diligently rehearse speeches beforehand were documented in the 2010 film, The King’s Speech — dealt with a stammer most of their lives. Churchill, who was the UK’s prime minister during many of the years George VI was king, meticulously memorized speeches beforehand to help control his impediment. Elvis Presley sang his way out of his hesitations, while Marilyn Monroe employed a sexy, whisper-like breathing method.
These days, celebrities such as Carly Simon, James Earl Jones, Tiger Woods, Bill Walton, and Bruce Willis, along with Biden and broadcast journalist John Stossel, number among the afflicted. Some learned to use the disorder to their advantage by arousing sympathy. Others hid it so well by substituting words and other methods that people could not tell they had the problem most of the time. Most learned to accept the sometimes cruel jokes and well-meaning advice from friends as part of life’s spiraling process.
While researchers estimate that one percent of the population can be classified as “stutterers,” numerous speech pathologists point out that everyone has a certain amount of stuttering or hesitation in their speech, that no one is perfectly fluent. My father, who developed confidence since a boyhood stutter to the point he led tours of the FBI Building in Washington, D.C., once told me that the late NFL star and broadcaster Frank Gifford was the only person he had never heard get stuck on a word.
The disorder afflicts males much more than females, and up to 75 percent of children who stutter rid themselves of it by adulthood, according to the Memphis-based Stuttering Foundation. There are times when even the most severe stutterer is fluent, such as singing, reciting prayers and passages with others, and acting a role. Those activities likely derive from a different part of the brain, leading some researchers to theorize a physical component of the complex disorder.
While singing, people who normally stutter or have overcome a childhood one, such as Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Carly Simon, and Mel Tillis, utilize their vocal chords, lips, and tongue differently than normal and there is little time pressure, noted Barry Guitar, speech pathology professor emeritus at the University of Vermont. The rhythmic pattern of music aids in regulating breathing, and the brain likely function differently for singing, he added.
There are also times when people who stutter can stand up and talk fluently enough to make most listeners think they do not have a speech problem. Churchill learned he could speak fluently if he prepared and practiced his remarks weeks in advance. The late British Prime Minister would prepare responses to every possible objection and hum to himself to get his vocal folds vibrating before a speech.
Actor James Earl Jones read Shakespeare aloud while alone in the fields of his family farm, where he developed his acting skills and booming voice. Other actors who sometimes stutter in conversation, including Monroe, Willis, Jimmy Stewart, and Julia Roberts, find they do not when they play roles on stage or behind a camera. Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton saw his life change after broadcaster Marty Glickman shared a few tips when he was 28, mostly about slowing down your thoughts to think about the present, reading aloud, and practicing what you say beforehand. Biden spoke to a mirror as a teen, reciting poetry to gain a more relaxed rhythm in his speech and eliminate facial contortions. He usually employs a technique in giving speeches where he draws diagonal lines between phrases to remember not to think too far ahead.
In 1982, I spoke in front of a group of University of North Texas speech pathology students, and the words came easily. “To me, the battle is inside,” I said to the class. “If I think to myself that I can stand here and talk as fluently as in my dreams, I will. But if I let myself lose confidence and see myself losing control, I’ll more likely have difficulty.”
It wasn’t that simple, of course. But at times, I think the mental aspect is mostly what I now have to overcome to control my speech. I’ve had enough success in public and personal encounters, enough therapy on taking a breath and gently saying syllables, to understand and grasp the physical mechanics. If I can relax and reprogram my mind to take that breath, if I can just focus on the present phrase and not think too far ahead, I can elicit speech that is more near the norm.
In the UNT instance, near my 23rd birthday, with the Falklands War raging, the Weather Channel hitting cable, and the Unabomber professor executing his violent anti-modern technology campaign, it was done. George Larson, then head speech pathologist at North Texas who would retire in 2000, commented that he, a “reformed” stutterer who made it his life mission to work with people like myself, could not tell I had a speaking problem. We had worked in the preceding months to recall those Hollins techniques, and I had enough confidence to master them while speaking before his class.
There would be other similar moments of personal triumph in ensuing years. A speech before thousands of India natives on an international goodwill project in 1988. Speaking before my kids’ classes for Career Day in 2005 and 2007. Delivering the eulogy for my father at the Fort Myer chapel at Arlington National Cemetery in 2008. Reading an essay during the Bethesda Literary Festival in 2008. Addressing my son’s Scout troop as a den leader in 2011.
But like all such moments, they were fleeting, drowned out by the times when I left an interview, a broadcast, a public speaking event, a date, a work meeting, wondering if I was cursed.
Multiple factors behind consistent stuttering
While most people pause, say “uh” and “um,” and even repeat words and syllables when they are nervous, tired, or not sure what they are trying to say, why one percent or so of humans do that consistently is still a mystery.
Numerous books filled with theories have been written attempting to clear up that enigma. Early theories included parents tickling an infant too much, allowing a baby to look in the mirror, and the “devil” at work. More modern theories range from genetic and physical causes such as reduced blood flow to the area of the brain that controls speech and interference among brain hemispheres, to psychological ones like trauma and stress. Some think stuttering is mostly due to heredity, a tensing of the vocal chords, or lack of proper motor coordination associated with speech. Many cite a combination of factors.
In 1987, I participated in a $1 million research project by the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas. Researchers found “biochemical abnormalities” and other physical factors that led to stuttering and spasmodic dysphonia, an uncontrollable contraction of the larynx’s vocal folds that causes the voice to sound hoarse, quivery, and sometimes soundless. They concluded that 84 percent of those studied had a “neurological defect of the central nervous system that causes the disorder.”
The tests involved in the landmark study included an MRI, electroencephalogram [EEG], brain electrical activity mapping [BEAM] signals collected by electrodes, and single photon emission computerized tomography [SPECT] that monitored blood flow through the brain. At the time, researchers concluded I was a “moderate to heavy” stutterer who exhibited a slightly slower brain response than most “normal” speakers and was “slower than normal” in performing some motor functions. But my diligence in practicing techniques learned through therapy programs made my speech problem only mildly noticeable.
Tests showed that there was some scarring tissue on the frontal lobe and mid-right temporal lobe of my brain, the region that affects speech and motor control. Researchers thought that could have been due to a childhood head injury, of which I had several. The SPECT test showed reduced blood flow involving the left and right temporal lobes, with more reduction on the right side. A 2016 study led by researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles also found that blood flow is reduced in the frontal lobe of the brain linked to speech production in persons who stutter. With greater reduction in blood flow came more severe stuttering.
Participants with spasmodic dysphonia showed more physiological defects than I did, were less skilled in motor coordination, and had a “greater blockage” in the area of the brain related to speech functions, researchers said. Since researchers found that symptoms other than stuttering were unlikely to develop in my case, they saw “no reason to expect a progression or worsening of the condition.” In a statement that was a little like my high school basketball coach telling me when I was a sophomore that I had little chance to make the team, they wrote, “While it is not impossible to exclude this, we have no real expectation of significant improvement.”
As for the cause or causes in my case, researchers identified several factors, including family history and head injuries that impact blood flow to the brain. That led me to develop the “Everything-is-a-part-of-it” theory. In short, I believe stuttering is a learned behavior caused by a psychological reaction to environmental and hereditary factors, which make the vocal chords tense and nervous system go haywire, thus producing what we call stuttering.
How did I come by that conclusion? First, I learned my stuttering started right after my older sister, Sharon, died of Reye’s syndrome when I was five. There’s the psychological trauma, which researchers said “may be involved” to a limited degree.
Second, my dad stuttered when he was a kid. The hereditary factor.
Third, my stuttering worsened as I went to school and learned I spoke differently from 99 percent of the people with whom I came in contact. The environmental factor.
Fourth, my slower brain response and motor functions, reduced blood flow, and scarring on the brain. The physiological factors.
Finally, every time I feel I am going to stutter, I do. My vocal chords tense up, and I develop a nervous pit in my stomach. The learned behavior.
In surveying friends who underwent the Hollins University speech-reconstruction therapy program with me in 1976, most agreed the cause was both psychological and physical. One 40-year-old woman thought she could lick the problem if she did not think about what she was saying and how she was saying it. A 42-year-old man thought it was mostly caused originally by his father having a bad temper and his mother being too easy-going. He agreed with a 21-year-old young man who said it was now caused by nervousness that resulted in tense vocal chords. The majority of speech institutes surveyed either did not concern themselves with finding a specific cause or pointed to both physical and psychological factors.
From cutting the tongue to reconstructing speech
In the past, treatment for stuttering has incorporated cutting out a piece of the tongue, placing pebbles in the mouth, vomiting, and drinking water from a snail shell. Most modern therapy sessions deal primarily with the speech reconstruction techniques developed by Ronald Webster, a licensed psychologist who earned his doctorate in experimental psychology from LSU in 1964. Believing the problem of stuttering is more physically based than mental, he founded the Hollins Communications Research Institute in 1972.
Some take the more psychological approach. Starting in 1936, the late Charles Van Riper, a long-time Western Michigan University speech pathologist who stuttered, developed a therapy that focused on reducing anxiety and modifying behaviors to allow those inflicted to stammer less stressfully. The late Joseph Sheehan, a clinical psychologist and speech pathologist who also stuttered, started a clinic at UCLA in 1949 that worked on a similar program, known as approach-avoidance conflict therapy.
The Webster-led therapy teaches a slower, controlled, almost robot-like way of talking. A set of defined speech “targets” are gradually shaped into quicker, fluent, “normal” speech. Friends who responded to the survey reported that the “gentle onset” and “full breath” targets were most helpful in controlling their speech.
My first therapy in second grade consisted of working on phonetic pronunciation and employing Van Riper’s methods. In fourth grade, my therapist started to make me think about why I stuttered. I would answer her probing queries with responses like, “I wish I could take a pill and make it go away.” We worked on Van Riper’s methods of stammering on purpose, “pulling out” of blocks, and openly telling people I stuttered — which I rarely did. I had some degree of success, but I felt uncomfortable about stuttering on purpose and did not understand how that would help my problem. I felt humiliated enough in having to be called out of class to attend speech therapy and did not want others to know where I was going.
After sixth grade, I was still classified as a moderate-to-heavy stutterer, but I did not take speech therapy again until ninth grade. I had better success employing Van Riper’s pull-out methods in therapy, but I again balked at attempting the procedure outside of class, except with my immediate family. During my junior year, my mother spotted an article about the Hollins program and raised $1,500 to put me through the three-week intensive course the following summer. I did not even tell my closest friends where I was going. I wanted to come back a totally changed person.
Hollins claims that 93 percent of program participants achieve fluency by the end of the intensive program and 75 percent retained fluency two years later. The latter figure seems inflated, according to people I have contacted. Though most said there had been improvement from before undergoing the course.
By 2020, more than 6,500 people had tried Hollins’ therapy, including the late Annie Glenn and Stossel. At the end of the course, I joined that 93 percent. I was not completely fluent, but the results were fairly amazing. My before and after videotapes in the clinic were like the models of the Charles Atlas fitness course. The reconstruction of my speech, stretching out syllables, remembering to take a full breath before I spoke, and gently initiating the first syllable helped me maintain a higher rate of fluency. We made phone calls, went to malls and asked questions of strangers, and issued speeches in front of the entire clinic. With each round of success, I gained confidence. My speech on the Dallas Cowboys contained few hesitations and repetitions.
But somewhere between Virginia and Texas, my old way of speaking started to return. In situations with the old environmental cues, I reverted to repeating sounds and hesitating. I forgot to take a full breath and gently initiate the first syllable as I spoke with friends. Some said they noticed a change; others did not say anything. My father kept after me, practicing the targets with me for a few months. But once I went back to school, the change in speech was not very noticeable. Friends at the clinic reported similar results.
My confidence level had increased, particularly helped by my success on the basketball court. I developed more friendships and became more outgoing. I joined clubs, such as for creative writing, and attended some speech therapy sessions as a senior, where I developed good fluency with the therapist.
In college, I became more socially, athletically, and academically active, not leaving much time for working on my speech. I gravitated to a career that required speaking, reporting for the college newspaper and working on my speech on the job. It was not until after I graduated from the University of North Texas in 1981 that I inquired about Dr. Larson’s program. For the next nine months, I saw him or a student therapist once a week, working on a combination of Van Riper’s and Webster’s methods. Once again, with my therapists I developed almost perfect fluency, even when they observed me ask questions outside the class and give speeches.
While I focused on work and other projects once in the “real world,” my success in controlling my speech remained mixed. After participating in the brain research project in 1987, I joined the self-help National Stuttering Association and started going to meetings regularly. The interaction allowed me to better focus on targets in those meetings, but once again on the outside, results remained inconsistent.
Some reported success with various medication. The discovery of slower blood flow to certain regions of the brain has led some doctors to prescribe drugs that dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. Xanax and Celexa are sometimes prescribed to help with anxiety, with some doctors finding they only work in a few patients. Some found their stuttering reduced when taking a magnesium dietary supplement, although only when taken less frequently for a couple of days a week.
Some people who stammer have also found some reduction by using an electronic device such as SpeechEasy, which alters hearing feedback. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that device was effective at first but gradually wore off in four months.
Stuttering has been one of our society’s most penalized handicaps. Most stutterers learn very early in their lives that it is desirable not to stutter…. The implication is clear that when they do not speak fluently they are doing something wrong.
— Frederick Murray, retired speech clinic director, University of New Hampshire, author, A Stutterer’s Story
Beyond the ridicule, shame, and embarrassment for many people who stutter are some real-world disadvantages. One study cited by the Hollins Communications Research Institute claims that a person who stutters on average earns at least $7,000 less per year than a normal speaker.
“The simple fact is that stuttering is generally viewed as a negative in the world of work,” HCRI founder Webster wrote. “Typical business hiring practices and promotion policies do not provide accommodations for persons who stutter.”
There could be something to lost earnings, though I think most people who stutter can make it up in other ways. For me, I compensate for my lower-than-average speaking skills with a higher-than-average work ethic, along with superior writing, math, and research abilities. If you work hard, you can make more than the average person. It might be more difficult to surpass the average in a speech-important field like sales or legal, but I think it’s up to the individual.
When I think back on my journalism career, there have been times when my stuttering has had an impact. In 2001, I was laid off by The Dallas Morning News shortly after the September 11 tragedy. While the company showed a relatively small loss that year, profits returned in 2002 close to the 2000 level. I consulted a lawyer and filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Human Rights, alleging discrimination based on my age and speech problem. I charged that I was essentially fired since I had almost ten years of service with Belo and had a speaking difficulty that would not lend me as a good candidate to go on Belo’s cable station to talk about stories I wrote, which was a big push for reporters to do back then.
I kept some lawyers and human resources and editorial managers busy for almost two years, detailing responses to their points and objections. Besides the state office, I got the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to review my case. In late 2003, the state commission and EEOC finally gave up and closed their reviews because investigators were “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.” But the offices allowed that they could not certify that parent company Belo Corporation was “in compliance with the statutes.”
Overall, most companies have dealt with me fairly. The Belo situation was probably exacerbated by the shock at being cast aside in an indifferent manner that seemed to be less than honest at the time. In correspondence to the investigators, my bosses steered clear of mentioning the campaign to have reporters go on TV, focusing on some personal criticism they had not told me in person. But Belo did pay me more equitably than most other newspapers, some of which had withheld mileage when I used my own vehicle.
The textbook definition of a handicap as “a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult” is certainly true when it comes to stuttering. While there are some set-aside programs for people who stutter, many balk at pursuing those, not wanting to call attention to their affliction. My high school counselor told me about one such program to help pay for college, but I declined. I didn’t want special treatment and figured that people might “fake” having a speech impediment if such awards were lucrative enough. Back in the 1970s, grants to pay for college were much easier to obtain, so I ended up having much of my tuition covered anyway.
I once asked Dr. Larson, who said he was a severe stutterer in his younger days, how he gained improvement in everyday life situations. “I just didn’t let it bother me as much, anymore,” he replied. That answer contains part of the key to unlocking a lasting solution to this enigmatic problem. If a person who stutters can develop a healthy attitude towards his problem — -one where he would feel secure enough to discuss it openly with anyone — the problem could become smaller.
Realizing that this issue is not the most pressing one confronting mankind these days also helps. Compared to people suffering from COVID-19, racism, police brutality, and more severe matters, stuttering does not seem so important.
Friends who completed my survey felt what would most help them was to practice more on the targets, such as the “gentle onset,” in everyday situations and for their listeners to not finish what they have to say. The latter situation causes most stutterers to feel that they are mentally inferior to the well-meaning person who completes his or her sentence, thus compounding the psychological problem. To increase fluency, a stutterer has to feel like a “normal” speaker, even though his or her speech may still be abnormal.
A speech clinic director felt that speech pathologists need to know how to handle the change in stutterers’ feelings and treat the whole person, not just the speech-making part. Many speech pathologists have studied psychology to understand what makes one human react differently than others.
Other directors felt there needed to be more research conducted on the rate of recovery and how a stutterer can carry over his or her fluency into everyday situations. That is the area which I feel needs the most work, and the degree of success often relates to how much the individual is willing to work outside the clinic to achieve a better level of fluency. But that’s not always the case since those who work hard can still see frustratingly slow progress and setbacks.
While the general public’s knowledge of the problem seems to be improving in some areas, in other ways, it is not. Reacting to the 2020 Atlantic article on Biden, numerous social media commentators said they didn’t realize he had a problem, or they denied he did, as if they knew more about the subject than Biden and speech therapists.
Further examination of this problem can lead to solutions for similar “handicaps,” both psychological and physical. People who stutter usually have developed more compassion, humility, perseverance, and patience that help them overcome other barriers.
It is trite, but true, that we all have problems for which we search for solutions, and the answer to surmounting one particular hurdle can often lead to unlocking the door to greater human understanding. In short, I look forward to the day when people who stutter are not still treated as fodder for inferiority complexes and comic relief. If that takes having to shelf Porky Pig and socially cancel those who belittle and laugh at the speech-afflicted, so be it.