A Corkman who has overcome his own stammer problems and is now helping others is hoping to make contact with USA president Joe Biden to raise awareness about the issue
CLONAKILTY native Jamie Googan has been working in conjunction with his local TD Michael Collins and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny who is a good friend of Mr Biden and RTÉ’s Washington correspondent Brian O’Donovan to set up a virtual meeting with the recently elected US president.
Mr Googan wants to set up the meeting with Mr Biden, who has himself conquered his own issues with a stammer, to defeat the stigma associated with stammering and raise its profile to a new level.
Mr Googan is hoping to talk with the president via Zoom or to potentially meet him when he is expected to travel to Ireland in the near future.
“We are hoping to touch base with Mr Biden so we can create more awareness about the issue.
We are hoping to make contact via Zoom or it could possibly happen during his expected future visit to Ireland. We have touched base with the US embassy and written letters to the White House. We are knocking on every single door and trying to reach out to every person in authority,” he said.
Jamie said that he has received assurances from the US embassy that when Mr Biden travels to Ireland during his tenure, a meeting will be facilitated.
“There is nothing confirmed yet about the president coming to Ireland as of yet, but we have assurances that when a schedule is released in due course, we will be facilitated.
“Brian O’Donovan the RTÉ correspondent has been a great help as have Michael Collins and Enda Kenny. The former Taoiseach has met Joe Biden numerous times over the years and he will do his best to set up a meeting. We are after generating a fantastic team of individuals who are trying to help us,” he said.
The rise of Joe Biden who successfully negotiated his own personal issues with a stammering problem in his youth gives great encouragement to all people who suffer from a stammering problem said Jamie.
“He is the most powerful man in the world. For him to have the same challenge as us, it is very heartwarming and inspiring for us to see him rise to such a huge position of authority. He is so inspirational. He speaks from the heart about his stammer.
“He has overcome his personal battles and he is always keen to acknowledge this. Even a video message from him will help and guide the young people who suffer from a stammer a huge lift.”
Mr Googan is hoping the new president will use his influence and highlight the issues people who suffer from a stammer face on a daily basis.
“He has the power to normalise a stammer. It will only take a few interviews with President Biden to globalise this issue. He is a patron of the American Stammering Association and he raises the profile significantly.
“We all share the same struggles. We all have been through the whole process of going through the same hurdles and difficulties. Humiliation is probably the biggest hurdle. His election shows us what can be achieved. We all recognise the road ahead of us to make this happen.”
The Cork native is involved with the Irish Stammering Association, having developed a stammer as a child following a fall.
Mr Googan wants to normalise stammering.
“Our aim is to normalise this. 1% of the world’s population has a stammer. 0.8% will grow out of it during their teenage years and 0.2% will have it for life. The assessment list for people suffering from stammers in Ireland has increased over the last nine years which needs to be addressed. When I was three years’ old, I fell and knocked out my front three teeth. This led to me developing a stammer.
“It is very humiliating. Something basic like giving your name or number can cause huge struggles. It is awful for your confidence.
"In 2012 I went to the McGuire Programme. I have undergone a huge transformation in the subsequent years. I am now an eloquent and clear speaker,” he added.
Mr Googan also wants stammering not to be seen as a disability, but as a challenge moving forward. He aims to raise this issue with President Biden.
“I want to bring to Mr Biden’s attention that in both Ireland and America, stammering is seen as a disability. This can be very degrading to be put under that specific grading as to me it is a challenge and not a disability. I would like this to change and for it to be called an active challenge.”
Jamie said there is currently a support group for people who suffer from stammer problems in Cork who meet up and help one another. Mr Googan is glad to help out. “A lot of people have helped me overcome my challenges and I am keen to help other people. I want people to find their voice and their freedom.
“There are support groups in every county. They meet up every two weeks and practice their speech. They encourage one another to get outside their comfort zone. I was given the tools and I put myself in every uncomfortable situation as often as possible. I gradually became comfortable.”