Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Joe Biden: where are his actions?

When I was a trustee at the British Stammering Association, our director Norbert Liekfeldt used to say that we do not do Politics with a big P, party politics, but definitely politics with a small p, namely lobbying for the causes of stuttering and supporting the politicians that actively support us!

Many are thrilled that the Democratic Vice-President candidate Joe Biden has been stuttering as a child and teenager, and he is one of us as he attended a conference where he spoke about his stuttering openly. But I say about a politician: Don't watch their words, watch their actions! Biden is a wealthy politician with a lot of power and networks, and direct access to any decision maker. So what has he done for the causes of stuttering? Where are his actions to help the stuttering community?

My questions are:

1) Has he proposed legislation to support our causes?
2) Lobbied for more research money into stuttering?
3) Donated money? (anyone can do that!)
4) Spoke on our behalf in the Senate or asked a member of Congress to talk about stuttering in Congress?
5) Opened up his network to connect our associations to important contacts?
6) Given us direct access to himself?
7) Invested political capital to further our causes as opposed to just gaining capital by speaking at a conference?

If many answers are NO, then I am sorry but he is not one of me!

16 comments:

Greg said...

This has been my point, exactly. (And I tried to articulate it on a pretty recent ST article. Don't know if Peter threw it on the cutting room floor.)

I see a whole lot of people getting excited over this. And I will admit that it might help some kids dream bigger (which is an American thing--I know). But the reality is that JB hasn't done anything of substance for the stuttering population.

And if one was cynical (maybe I am), one could suggest that JB is *using* stuttering for political gain. (i.e., taking from it, rather than contributing to it.)

AAAlbert said...

But look at those famous stutterers, who ever has done anything to help us? How about Winston Churchill? Jack Welch?

The ex-chair of ISA, Mark Irvin, once wrote to Jack Welch to solicit some help and got no response at all. And I am sure Jack Welch talked about his childhood stuttering in his autobiography so as to stress his hardworking.

I have been wondering that most of these so-called famous stutterers do not think they are stutterers. Ask Julia Roberts, ask Bruce Willis. I suppose they may acclaim they used to stutter during their childhood or early years, but they may lack the burden we carry on. The continuous humiliation caused by stuttering does change our attitude toward stuttering, and for them, stuttering was not so powerful a condition to change their world and life value.

Anonymous said...

Tom -
Your post asks great questions! Perhaps if one of the "in-the-know" people from the SFA, AIS, NSA, FRIENDS or any other professional or self-help organizations reading your blog (you know they do!!) will respond to this thread and share the information needed to answer the questions.

greg and aaalbert make great points. I would suppose that none of the "so called famous stutterers" would currently identify themselves as "stutterers". Biden doesn't. They have all been "cured". I find it almost impossible to identify with any of the "famous" ones as an adult who stutters.

On a side note - Bruce Willis has been a noted "famous stutterer" put forward by many of the professional and self-help groups as a "model". (Can't figure out why cauz the dude never stutters...) Anyway, There has been a big emphasis recently in the professional field of stuttering and the professional advisors to the self-help groups on how to address bullying...talk it out, tell an adult, tell a teacher, tell the SLP... Willis's answer to bullying by others was to kick some ass. None of the other stuff worked! I personally found that kicking some ass worked well! ;-)

Did you ever have to deal with bullying Tom? If so, how did you?

Anonymous said...

on another side note...Julia Roberts may help the SFA (in contact with Jane Fraser). Both Eric Roberts and Julia Roberts stuttered (for sure as child). Eric more severe...more of a problem. Just google it

Mark Irwin...not Mark Irvin.

Ora said...

Tom - The simple fact that he's identifying himself as a stutterer (or former stutterer), and drawing attention to stuttering as a serious issue, is in itself notable, isn't it? It would be great if he did all the other things you've mentioned... but the simple acknowledgment of himself as a stutterer is a step forward, I think.

Tom Weidig said...

Hi Ora,

yes, the consequence of his coming out might be positive in some respect although I could argue that he makes recovery look easy and complete.

However, are his motives selfless? I could accuse you of political naivity here.

Him identifying with past stuttering is perfect for his political career, because he LIVES THE AMERICAN DREAM. He struggled hard, worked and believed hard, and succeeded!

His actions INCREASED HIS POLITICAL CAPITAL so he got something in return. No selfish act. Were he to do something for stuttering, he would have to INVEST POLITICAL CAPITAL!

talekhine said...

Joe Biden is not running for VP of stutterers, and when he was in the Senate his duty was to represent all Americans, not give preferential treatment to stutterers.

It would be immoral for Biden to try to skew research money toward stuttering causes, if it had to be taken away for other causes. Or to spend more of his working hours on stuttering-causes than he otherwise would. It would be like using your job to help a friend or family member at the expense of who you're working for.

He's be like Michael J. Fox or something. All these celebrities who get diseases suddenly run around claiming that the disease that they happen to have should get more than its fair share of resources. It strikes me as selfish.

This has nothing to do with me liking Biden. I think his political views are horrible, but I don't think your criticism is valid.

Tom Weidig said...

Talekhine,

>> It would be immoral for Biden to try to skew research money toward stuttering causes, if it had to be taken away for other causes.

What a naive and incomplete view of politics!

That is what politics is all about: resource allocation. You have 1 dollar to spend and people propose different ways to spend it. If you don't make a proposal, you don't get any money as simple as that. Therefore, you need to convince a politician to speak on your behalf in Congress or where ever.

IF YOU SPEND MONEY ON SOMETHING, YOU ALWAYS TAKE IT AWAY FROM SOMEONE ELSE.

So why should these other causes get all the money? What is the right balance? There is NO RIGHT OR WRONG, it is a consensus from conflicting interest groups. The balance is the relative strengths of putting forward the case.

As I said if you don't lobby, you don't get anything. It is as simple as that.

Leys Geddes said...

Palin has pledged that, if she is elected, families of special-needs children will have a friend and advocate in the White House.

Anonymous said...

telekhine -

These are my observations.

Your comment is interesting. I couldn't disagree with you more. Biden- in his 32 years of public service - should have been out there championing the cause and proposing/submitting bills to fund research stuttering as part of his adgenda. He hasn't and I don't think he will. To me, he's a prop for the "professional" organizations to secure funding for those organizations and have people attend their "events." He is using stuttering to serve his own political self... It would be interesting to see if he has ever been approached by researchers or organizations to craft legislation specifically for the cause of stuttering. If he hasn't, he should be heavily recruited to do so...

What part - if any - has he played in crafting speech & language concerns in FAPE and IDEA? I mean, he implies conquering stuttering as part of his personal victories. Hell, any adult who stutters and has knowledge of the self help groups should know they owe it to CWS to make the world a better place than what they had a a CWS growing up. Biden has been in a position to do so for a long time and has not specifically got into the legislation /funding we who stutter need.

One only has to look at the African-American legislative block to see what can be done for a cause if it is undertaken. A politician's own adgenda & "Special Interest" is the way of politics in America. I do not believe PWS have been a part of his 'special interests". But he wants us to vote for him! It's like I STUTTERED AND CONQUERED IT...VOTE FOR ME! I'd like to know what has he done for PWS given his terrible experience as a stutterer.

Palin would be an excellent resource to utilize for special interests in special needs children, which CWS are part of. Palin is living the challenge of having her own special needs child.

Unfortunately, McCain would make a terrible president.

As I started out saying, these are just my observations.

chrisnelson said...

As an adult stammerer myself, and someone actively involved in a political party, I wonder whether it is actually reasonable to expect Senator Biden to have done all of this.

On point 1, what specific additional legislation do you feel is necessary to support stammering? In the UK we have the Disability Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act, and in the USA Joe Biden is part of a ticket which has a detailed plan to help people with disabilities, which must surely include stammers: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/disabilities/

And on number 2, is it reasonable to expect a stammerer to lobby for special treatment for stammering just because he or she has that condition. There are countless disabilitating conditions in existence - is it fair for one to receive preferential treatment over another simply because a particular politician happens to suffer from it?

The very fact that, as a politician in the public eye, he is prepared to stand up and talk about his stammer at all is a welcome step towards encouraging others not to be afraid of confronting their condition. There are after all a significant number of childhood stammers who choose not to do this - including some politicians - but they are not subject to the same barrage of criticism.

It may well be that Joe Biden could have done more to promote awareness of stammering in his time in the Senate. But when criticising him for it you need to make sure that what you applaud what is good and expect only what is reasonable, lest you put others off from mentioning their condition at all!

talekhine said...

Tom:

Politics is about a lot more than resource allocation, although that is a huge part of modern American politics.

But let's examine the resource allocation aspect. Biden's job as senator is to allocate resources in such a way to give the most benefit to his constituents (or perhaps in the fairest way), which are the people of Delaware. Whether Biden is a stutterer has NOTHING to do with how resources should be allocated to best help the people of Delaware.

You are arguing that Biden should tilt the scales in favor of some group that he belongs to, rather than treat all of his constituents equally. By your argument if Obama is elected he should fight harder for black people than for people of other races.

I realize that almost all (or all) politicians do what you are encouraging Biden to do, but that does not mean that it isn't still unethical. What you're advocating is just an extension of the concept of using one's political influence to help one's friends.

Tom Weidig said...

>>> Whether Biden is a stutterer has NOTHING to do with how resources should be allocated to best help the people of Delaware.

By your arguments, minorities would never get anything, because they do no respond the majorities. That just does not make sense. Politicians also need to defend interests of minorities!!!

>> By your argument if Obama is elected he should fight harder for black people than for people of other races.

Obama is 50% white and 50% black! He is NOT more black than white!

>> I realize that almost all (or all) politicians do what you are encouraging Biden to do, but that does not mean that it isn't still unethical. What you're advocating is just an extension of the concept of using one's political influence to help one's friends.

No that is the way you allocate resources best.

Tom

MommaWriter said...

I have to agree with talekhine on this one. Biden's job as a senator is to represent the people of Delaware in the U.S. Senate, not to promote his own personal agenda.

If there is a large constituent of PWS in Delaware who want him to do something, then that's his job. It's the job of groups of PWS to lobby Biden or another sympathetic member of the legislature if they feel the need for legislative change. Biden could certainly push such things, but he'd have to have a lot of people visibly behind him to make any inroads at all. Tom, you hit it on the head when you wrote,

>>If you don't make a proposal, you don't get any money as simple as that. Therefore, you need to convince a politician to speak on your behalf in Congress or where ever.<<

Has anyone ever tried to convince him to speak for our issue? Are there laws that could be enacted that would make a big difference for PWS in the US? I'm not sure there are...unless the can make insurance companies pay for therapy...that'd be cool.

And, yes, even as a Obama/Biden supporter I'd say of course he's using his stuttering for political gain. It's one of those ways to show how he's "pulled himself up by his bootstraps"...that he's faced adversity and come away the better for it. It doesn't necessarily make him a great VP candidate, but it's one of those kinds of themes that Americans like to hear. I'm not sure he should be derided for that just because it's not possible for everyone to get around or over (or whatever) a stutter...although I agree that it doesn't give people the proper understanding of the problem (and I find that irritating)...but that's not his mission here either. He's trying to educate voters about himself, not about stuttering in general.

So, in answer to your question, I'd say 'no', Biden probably hasn't done many of those things, but I'd also say that's not his responsibility unless there's a strong call for it from the people of Delaware. He could donate money to the cause and that'd be nice, but he's not *obligated* to donate to it, just because he once stuttered.

Just my humble opinion, of course. I think if the NSA or another large stuttering advocacy group wanted to promote some kind of policy change and their membership got behind it, it's quite possible someone like Biden would listen...and I'm going to naively believe that until someone tells me that Biden blatantly ignored their calls for help at the national level.

Stacey

talekhine said...

I don't think I am implyng politicians should not defend minorities. A senator is supposed to weigh the interests of different groups against each other and try to make a fair judgment of whose interest is more important in any given case.

For instance the interests of a minority group not to be oppressed could be more important than the interests of the majority in oppressing the majority, even though the minority group is smaller.

I am just saying that senators should be making those judgments without regard to which groups they personally belong to. They should be objective about it.

Regardless of Obama's race, the point is that by your logic it seems like IF Obama was 100% black he should then favor the interests of black people if he became president.

You are saying that you think the best way for politicians to allocate resources is to give special treatment to their friends? I guess we just fundamentally disagree then.

Mike said...

Guys, I think this is a bit of a circular discussion and am a bit confused why Tom has made multiple posts regarding Biden in the first place.

There is no place for politics when it comes to stuttering.

Politics will not rid us or help us cope with our stutter any better. We already have fair-competition practises in place and so forth there's hardly much else left to do.

>>>>>However, are his motives selfless? I could accuse you of political naivity here.<<<<

Nobodys motives are ever selfless, everyone is selfish and to think otherwise would be naive.