President Joe Biden helped Brayden Harrington with his stutter after they met on the campaign trail last February

By Sam Gillette
January 21, 2021 05:30 PM
Brayden Harrington and President Joe Biden
| Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

During the Inauguration Day special on Wednesday, Brayden Harrington performed a passage from President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech for millions of viewers.

But public speaking hasn't always been so easy for 13-year-old Harrington, whose stutter eroded his confidence until his chance meeting with President Joe Biden on the campaign trail last February.

"I tell you what: Don't let it define you," the then-presidential candidate, who has also battled a stutter, told Harrington. "You are smart as hell, now you really are. You can do this."

Since then, Harrington has given a speech at the Democratic National Convention, appeared on national television and now he's writing a book to encourage other kids. Brayden Speaks Up will be published on Aug. 10, HarperCollins Children's Books announced on Wednesday. A middle-grade novel will be published the following year.

"When I learned I had the opportunity to speak at the Democratic National Convention, I was so nervous!" the Boscawen, New Hampshire, native and basketball fan said in a statement. "What got me through and helped motivate me was knowing I could be a voice for other children who stutter as well as anyone else who has faced challenges. I only hope my story provides a little extra support and motivation for those that need it."

The president with his young mentee
| Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

The book reveals "how Brayden's stutter is his greatest strength, making him an inspiration for all kids who feel different, and celebrates the importance of speaking up and using your voice," reads a description. "The book will include an author's note from Brayden and additional resources for those who stutter."

Harrington first came to the president's attention at a campaign rally in New Hampshire. After encouraging the young boy, Biden asked for his phone number so he could share techniques that have helped him overcome his stutter. "It took a lot of practice," Biden told Harrington, according to a video filmed at the time. "But I promise you, you can do it."

The encounter was far from the first time that Biden has opened up about his stutter. During a CNN town hall last February, he recalled how his life was impacted by his stutter.

"You know, stuttering, when you think about it, it is the only handicap that people still laugh about. That [they] still humiliate people about. And they don't even mean to," Biden said at the time. He said he continues to connect with and encourage others who suffer from the speech impediment.

On the final night of the DNC, his mentee was ready to show how far he'd come, with the president's help, during an inspiring speech.

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"Without Joe Biden, I wouldn't be talking to you today," Harrington said in a video that aired during the virtual convention in August. "A few months ago, I met him in New Hampshire. He told me we were members of the same club: We stutter."

"It's really amazing to see that someone like me became vice president," he continued. "He told me about a book of poems by Yeats he would read out loud to practice. He showed me how he marks his addresses to make them easier to say out loud."

Harrington ended with his own personal — and endearing — endorsement of the presidential candidate. "I'm just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me feel more confident about something that's bothered me my whole life," he said. "Joe Biden cared. Imagine what he could do for all of us."

The teenager's performance during the Inauguration Day special was just as inspirational.

"Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country," Harrington said, referencing Kennedy's historic speech.

Harrington's upcoming book, which will be illustrated by Betty C. Tang, is just one more way he's proving himself to be a young leader.

"Brayden Harrington is an extraordinary role model for kids and adults alike, and we're thrilled to have the opportunity to publish his incredible story," said editor Megan Ilnitzki in a statement. "Through his courage, perseverance, and strength of character, Brayden inspires us all to celebrate who we are and to make each of our voices heard."