GREENWICH, Conn. – Teachers said he was mentally retarded. Some of his nastier classmates called him dummy. Today, Dannel P. Malloy is called something else: governor of Connecticut.
Malloy, who still struggles with reading and calls writing “almost impossible,” credits his lifelong struggle with dyslexia for developing listening skills and memory tricks he uses every day with constituents and legislators.
Despite reaching his state’s top elected position, he still has lingering embarrassment over his learning difficulties, Malloy told students Tuesday at Greenwich’s Eagle Hill School, a private campus for children with language-based learning disorders like his own.
“I have to tell you, I’ll be right up front about it: I’m the governor of the state of Connecticut and I can’t write anything well,” Malloy told the rapt students. “This is who we are. I can’t write things. I’m embarrassed all the time about that, particularly if people don’t know that about me.”
Although he has never hidden his dyslexia, Malloy’s election as Connecticut’s governor last year placed him on the national stage as an increasingly public face for awareness of learning disorders. He’s also a vocal advocate for early intervention to help students compensate for those disabilities.
Malloy’s tactics entail dictating his correspondence to others, jotting a few words on a scrap of paper to jog his memory for his off-the-cuff speeches, and memorizing short greetings to write on autographs.
Malloy credits his mother and other adults who saw his potential, encouraged him to pursue his passions for public speaking and government.
Agnes Malloy, a school nurse, also gave her son a radio because she knew he was a good listener and wanted to encourage that skill. Each night, Malloy has said, he would go to bed listening to talk radio and news radio shows.
As he grew older, he found he could absorb information easily and quickly through audiobooks. He eventually graduated with honors from Boston College, got his law degree and became a prosecutor. Later, the Democrat became Stamford’s mayor and, in the fall, was elected governor.