Retired Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, known for safely landing US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River and saving hundreds of lives in 2009, published an op-ed in the New York Times last week coming to Joe Biden’s defense after Lara Trump publicly mocked the former Vice President’s stutter. 

In the op-ed, Sullenberger wrote about his own lifelong struggle with stuttering, adding Trump’s remarks brought back sour memories. “Those feelings came rushing back, when I heard Lara Trump mocking former Vice President Joe Biden at a Trump campaign event, with the very words that caused my childhood agony,” he added.

In an Iowa event last week, Lara Trump said, I feel kind of sad for Joe Biden because I’m supposed to want him to fail at every turn, but every time he comes on stage or they turn to him I’m like ‘Joe can you get it out? Let’s get the words out Joe.'” She’s since denied making fun of his speech impediment, claiming the media made assumptions and took her remarks out of context. 

Sullenberger said Trump’s comments go “beyond politics” and had some harsh advice for her. “Stop. Grow up. Show some decency. People who can’t have no place in public life.”

“What might a child who stutters, as I did, feel when they hear a grown-up on a public stage trying to make a bunch of other adults laugh by ridiculing a public figure who also stutters?” he added. 

He concluded his op-ed on a hopeful note, addressing children who stutter as he did. “You are fine, just as you are. You can do any job you dream of when you grow up. You can be a pilot who lands your plane on a river and helps save lives, or a president who treats people with respect, rather than making fun of them.”

“A speech disorder is a lot easier to treat than a character defect,” Sullenberger continued. “You become a true leader, not because of how you speak, but because of what you have to say — and the challenges you have overcome to help others.”