I would like to respond to your article “Author Event: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the Man Behind the Hero” about the May 9 event that was sponsored by the Old Bristol Historical Society and the Lincoln County Historical Association in which author Ronald C. White discussed his book on Chamberlain. I am not from Maine, but I would venture to say that Chamberlain ranks as one of the most interesting people to ever hail from the state. He graduated from Bowdoin College, became a general and hero in the Civil War, and then returned home to Maine to be both president of Bowdoin and governor of Maine. Joshua Chamberlain is one of the most accomplished people in U.S. history.

The article began, “How did a stuttering boy come to be fluent in nine languages?” Yes, while a student at Bowdoin, Chamberlain became fluent in nine foreign languages — French, Spanish, Italian, German, Arabic, Syriac, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. It is a phenomenon that in some cases people who stutter are able to speak foreign languages fluently, much like some stutterers can act on stage fluently. For example, actor Bruce Willis stuttered badly until age 20 when he found a mix of acting and speech therapy gave him fluency. He stated over the years that he was always uncomfortable giving interviews because he had to use his real voice.

Chamberlain was plagued by stuttering until young adulthood. In his youth, Chamberlain’s father wanted him to follow in the family tradition of the military while his mother wanted him to be a minister; he knew that both of these professions would face stumbling blocks because of his speech. The Stuttering Foundation website has a biographical profile on Chamberlain entitled “General Battled Stuttering.” At Bowdoin, he worked extensively with a speech correctionist and was able to learn techniques that both controlled stuttering and gave him a ticket into the world of fluency.

Yes, Gen. Chamberlain was a Civil War hero, but he is also a hero because he overcame his speech problem and has inspired many people in the stuttering community.

Adam Lichter

Springfield, Massachusetts

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