Parker Mantell – How to Fit a Square Peg Through a Round Hole

Parker Mantell is a high-ranking and incredibly successful spokesperson. His job is to effectively communicate information on behalf of his associates and colleagues. Whilst public speaking is something which would send many of us running for the hills in fear and anxiety, Mantell has excelled at his position. Additionally, he has attained all of this while simultaneously facing his own challenge; that of a pronounced stutter. 

Parker Mantell’s 2014 Indiana University commencement address was the subject of a nationally televised commercial and featured by outlets such as CNN, NBC‘s “TODAY,” and People – and has inspired people in all 50 states, as well as in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Following his address, Mantell travelled the country to speak at conferences, universities, and high schools. At the age of 21, Mantell joined the National Republican Senatorial Committee; by 22, he was promoted to Press Secretary. Parker is currently the Communications & Research Director for Cavalry, LLC, which recently ranked second on POLITICO’s list of “the most powerful people and groups in Washington.” While a student at Indiana, Parker served the offices of Senator Marco Rubio, FOX News, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Mantell has also just completed a successful TED Talk on how he has achieved his goals, and how he faced up to his fears. We caught up with him to discuss his journey and to ask about how those who face a similar communicative obstacle can take more control over it. What we learned was valuable, insightful and worthwhile.

It was at the age of four when Parker Mantell began to stutter and, shortly afterwards, he began speech therapy. When asked which methods of treatment and training he found most successful, Mantell said; “I think it is important to first and foremost define what ‘success’ means with respect to how a person who stutters communicates. It can be tempting to consider a stutter-free exchange as a success.

But the true measure of success for people who stutter shouldn’t be how fluent we say something – it should be whether we say something at all. Each day, stuttering makes every attempt to silence an individual. Defying those attempts – speaking out instead of being silenced – is what success looks like to me.”

In attempting to chart the nature of his treatment, it was imperative to try and decipher whether Mantell felt there was a particular breakthrough moment, or if he felt that it was an ongoing, continuous process.

I don’t consider there to be a single ‘breakthrough moment’ along the journey I discussed in the (TED) talk,” responds Mantell, “Rather, it’s a series of small decisions that take place each day. The seemingly small decision to resist changing my order at a restaurant to something that might be easier to say is precisely the same as the more consequential decision to pursue a career in a field revolving around public speaking instead of one that might be easier for a person who stutters. The two are inherently identical. Whenever we choose – whenever we insist – to be ourselves, we have achieved a breakthrough moment – no matter the size or scope of that choice.

Those small decisions are the most powerful source of ammunition in the daily battle of doubt.”

My Good Planet wanted to know of Parker Mantell’s recommendations to children and young people who stutter, and what advice he would provide them with:

When it comes to children who stutter – who serve as the source of motivation in all that I do – I have not so much a recommendation but a request,” he explains, “That request is to recognize how critically important it is to achieve our respective purposes in life. I say that because when we dare to be our best selves, we are directly empowering others to become their best selves as well.

Whenever a barrier is broken for just one of us, it is in turn broken for all of us. There are currently more than 70 million people who stutter worldwide, which means that more than 70 million round holes – spanning each and every industry – can be reshaped. The beneficiaries of the barriers we break will ultimately be the countless number of people who stutter in the generations following ours.”

When referring to stuttering, the word ‘overcome‘ was used as My Good Planet conducted the interview. This was something which sparked a particularly interesting point, and detailed response, from Mantell.

“I don’t consider stuttering to be a challenge that can ever be overcome; rather, I believe it is one that we must persist through. Certainly, I treasure the speech therapy I had growing up, which offered me strategies for my speech.

But what’s most important, however, isn’t a method to overcome a difficult word but the confidence necessary to persist through a difficult day. For that, I am eternally grateful to my family and friends, classmates and colleagues.”

It is clear that Mantell has worked incredibly hard to achieve what he has, and is both aware and grateful for the heights he has reached. It begged the question, however, of where he would like to go from here?

“As with far too many fields, politics and public service are awfully round holes that can use some reshaping,” he concluded, The driving force in all that I do are kids like the young boy I mentioned in the talk – the young boy who came up to me with tears in his eyes to ask if he can attend high school because he’s a person who stutters.

As I strive to play my part in widening the round holes of politics and public service such that anyone can fit in to them, it is my greatest hope that the question he posed to me – whether his stutter is a disqualification – will never be asked again.”

Additionally, Mantell’s  Indiana University commencement address can be viewed here:

Colin J McCracken

Colin J McCracken is a content designer, editor and writer from Ireland. Giving form and function to the My Good Planet vision, it has been his role to design and develop the online platform, content and presence of the project.

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