Politicians are often thought of as emotionless and unsympathetic—think the scheming Frank Underwood in Netflix’s hit series House of Cards, or the devastatingly snarky Selina Meyer in HBO’s satirical comedy Veep. But sometimes, they prove themselves to be more compassionate than anyone would expect. One such moment of revelation occurred yesterday in a heartwarming exchange on Twitter between Vice President Joe Biden and a man he met more than twenty years ago.
Branden “Skip” Brooks was on a school trip from Delaware to Washington, D.C. with his eighth-grade class in 1994 when he met Biden—who was then a Delaware senator—during a Q&A session. Biden noticed that the boy had a stutter and pulled him aside to talk about his own childhood stutter. A week later, Biden sent Brooks a hand-written note, encouraging the boy to work hard and “remember what I told you about stuttering. You can beat it just like I did.”
The full letter reads:
It was a pleasure meeting you yesterday. You are a fine, bright young man with a great future ahead of you if you continue to work hard. Remember what I told you about stuttering. You can beat it just like I did. When you do, you will be a stronger man for having won. Also remember, every time you are tempted to make fun of someone with a problem, how it feels when you are made fun of. Treat everyone with respect and you will be respected yourself.
On Wednesday, Brooks posted a picture of the note to Twitter, writing that the letter still inspires him even two decades later. Biden responded to Brooks’ tweet an hour later with the words, “And it’s still true today, my friend.” In response to that, Brooks posted a second photo—this time of himself as an adult, being sworn in as a prosecutor by Biden’s son Beau Biden. “Took your advice to heart,” Brooks wrote to the VP.
Brooks told the Daily Mail that after receiving Biden’s letter in 1994, he ran for class president in high school to improve his public speaking. Then, he studied law at Boston College and worked as a prosecutor for several years. The letter he received in 1994 is safely being kept at his parents' home. He also spoke about the VP's remarkable ability to connect with people in his state, noting that "in Deleware, everyone has a Joe Biden story."
Afterwards @VP Biden pulled me aside saying that he used to stutter as a kid and that he never let it interfere with his life goals. 1/3— Skip Brooks (@SkipBrooks9) July 1, 2015
.@vp added that he would purposely seek public speaking opportunities (such as acting in plays) to force himself to speak in public. 2/3— Skip Brooks (@SkipBrooks9) July 1, 2015
.@vp Biden said that I have something important to say and others will wait to hear it. This moment changed everything for me. 3/3— Skip Brooks (@SkipBrooks9) July 1, 2015
.@SkipBrooks9 And it's still true today, my friend. Treat everyone with respect and you will be respected yourself.— Vice President Biden (@VP) July 1, 2015