James Earl Jones, famous for his deep and powerful voice, had a stutter. According to National Public Radio, as a boy Jones “had such a severe stutter that, for eight years, he refused to talk and was functionally mute.”
How can someone paralyzed by insecurity and physical obstacles overcome them and find their voice? Through courage, patience and by the harnessing the power of words.
In many interviews, Jones says his high school English teacher helped him by making him read poetry aloud. By writing his own poems and committing them to memory, Jones found he could speak without stuttering. He began to challenge himself by competing in high-school debates and oratorical competitions. Soon studying theatre at the University of Michigan refined this skill.
Decades later, James Earl Jones has had memorable roles on stage, in feature films, and on television. From Darth Vader to the voice of Mufasa in The Lion King, Jones’ powerful voice takes center stage. An Academy and Tony Award winner, Jones is a great example to anyone working on their public speaking. By using his breath to unleash his vocal power, thinking about what he is saying and being passionate about speaking, Jones is able to control his stutter and move his audience. Remember this whenever you are feeling stuck by a challenge.
Listen to Jones read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”