As a college student, I remember walking into classrooms and looking for a seat where no one would be sitting to my left.
I did this in order to pull an empty desk over to where I sat in order to place my notebook on it to make it easier for me – a left-handed writer – to take notes.
Since about 10 percent of the world is left- handed, it is fair to say that approximately one out of ten of you reading these words know exactly what I mean when it comes to the challenges of being left-handed.
Today is International Left Handers Day, an unofficial holiday that has been observed since 1976. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the advantages and disadvantages in a world designed for right-handers.
Part of this awareness involves knowing about some of the notable left-handers in history.
Left-handed American Presidents
Eight of the nation’s 45 presidents, or 17.7 percent, were or are left-handed; and six of the thirteen chief executives since World War II have been lefties.
- James A. Garfield: He was ambidextrous (could write with both hands) and multilingual. Assassinated in 1881, just four months after his inauguration, the 20th President was viewed as a symbol of American promise and potential.
- Herbert Hoover: The 31st President and a noted humanitarian, he served from 1929 through 1933. He is remembered primarily for his efforts to confront a failed Stock Market and the Great Depression.
- Harry S. Truman: The second president to be ambidextrous, his parents made the future 33rd President – who served from 1945 to 1953 – write right-handed because they believed that left-handedness was a disability, not an uncommon belief at the time.
- Gerald Ford: The 38th President who served from 1974 to 1977, he once remarked that, “For as long as I can remember, I have been left-handed when I’ve been sitting down and right-handed standing up.”
- Ronald Reagan: Like President Truman, the 40th President was totally left-handed but was forced at an early age to switch to his right, thus becoming the third commander in chief to be ambidextrous.
- George H.W. Bush: The second consecutive left-handed president, and also a left-handed military man, Number 41 served from 1989 to 1993, and he is noted for his foreign policy in Panama, the Persian Gulf and for the end of the Cold War.
- Bill Clinton: The third consecutive leftie to be elected, the 42nd President served from 1993 to 2001. He left office with an approval rating of 66 percent, the highest rating of any president since World War II.
- Barack Obama: A proud left-hander, while signing the inaugural documents on January 20, 2009 the 44th President joked, “That’s right, I’m a lefty, get used to it!”
Read about all of the presidents who served in the military.
Left-handed Military Vets
Throughout history a number of left-handed military leaders contributed to history.
- Alexander the Great: Born in 365 BC and tutored by Aristotle, he led a Greek army that conquered the Persian Empire. “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion,” he conqueror once said.
- Julius Caesar: A Roman dictator and general, he ended the Roman Republic and began the Roman Empire. Before his assassination in 44 BC he said, “No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.”
- Charlemagne: After the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, this Frankish king was known as the “Emperor of the Romans” after conquering all of western Europe. He once observed that, “If the populace knew with what idiocy they were ruled, they would revolt.”
- Lloque Yupanqui: His name means “the glorified left hander,” and he was the third Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco. Through economic development and alliances he advanced the Incan Empire during the mid 1200s AD.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: This left-handed military man has a big reputation (or, a small reputation – depends on how you look at it). In the mid 18th century, he rose to command the French Army to conquer Western Europe. He also revolutionized military organization and training. “I am the successor, not of Louis XVI, but of Charlemagne.”
- George S. Patton, Jr.: Colorful, controversial and hard-driving, this general was born in 1885 and died in 1945. In that time, he developed armored warfare doctrine and later played a pivotal role in winning World War II. He summed up his leadership style when he wrote, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
- Norman Schwarzkopf: A demanding commander, in 1991 he led Operation Desert Storm, an air campaign followed by a 100-hour ground offensive, defeated the Iraqi Army and liberated Kuwait. “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war,” he once said.
*Males are twice as likely to be left-handed than females.
*Lefties are three times more likely to become alcoholics.
*Left handers really, really hate spiral notebooks.
*Defying the odds – four of the five designers of the MAC computer (on which I am now typing) were left-handed.
*Fifty percent of lefties use a computer mouse with their right hand; sixty-eight percent use their right hand for scissors; and seventy-four percent hold a dinner knife in their right hand.
*Left-handed persons have an average lifespan that is shorter than right-handed individuals.
*As a group, left-handers are more likely to be geniuses!
On that note I bid left and right-handers – even if you do sit in those infernal right handed desks – a wonderful International Left Handers Day!