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October 2008: The New U.S. President: Another Win for the Lefties

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • Recently hipped to Autograph magazine, I could not help but notice that fine publication’s recent breakdown of U.S. Presidents — specifically the lefties, known and alleged — and how cultural biases against left-handers forced lefties such as Ronald Reagan to write with his right, making him a true lefty autographing with his wrong hand.

While only 10% of the U.S. population is left-handed, a whopping 36% of Presidents have been lefties. Or will be after the coming election, for both John McCain and Barack Obama are southpaws. Extra Fine Points

As regular readers know, I grew up in the tail end of the anti-lefty era, when dictionaries still had “sinister” as the #2 definition for “left-handed,” and my 2nd and 3rd grade teachers forced me to write righty with a device similar to a police handcuff that held the writing instrument in what conventional wisdom considered the “correct” position. A young, forward-thinking special-ed teacher rescued me from that predicament, and got me writing lefty — somewhat legibly — in fourth grade.

Left-handed \Left"-hand`ed\, a.
  1. Having the left hand or arm stronger and more dextrous than the right; using the left hand and arm with more dexterity than the right.
  2. Clumsy; awkward; unlucky; insincere; sinister; malicious; as, a left-handed compliment.
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

Reagan wasn’t so fortunate, and neither was reader Brian Basore, who mailed (yeah, snail mailed) a letter with very tidy, tiny penmanship to say, among other things, that “I’m left-handed in everything except writing. Public school, you know.”

Oh, do I.

But something they used to say about democracy back in middle-school government classes (John Cougar Mellencamp reiterated in his hit song “Pink Houses”) is, “Boy, [some day] you could be President.” And, according to Autograph, because I am a lefty, my odds are even better: While only 10% of the U.S. population is left-handed, a whopping 36% of Presidents have been lefties. Or will be after the coming election, for both John McCain and Barack Obama are southpaws.

Left-handed overwriter (high elevation)

This is how Don writes today. It’s not exactly Palmer Method, is it?

You can’t vote for a righty unless you go for Ralph Nader. And he ain’t gonna win, so don’t even try. You’re forced to pick the best lefty on the ballot, if you want your vote to count.

The next President will join the likes of Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Reagan among the ranks of Most Powerful Lefties in the free world. We’ll count James Garfield among our ranks, too, as everyone knows that “ambidextrous” in the 19th century was code for “lefty.”

Sinister, maybe. Successful, indeed!

This lefty domination among candidates has not been seen since 1992, when George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot — all lefties — squared off for the Oval Office. Four out of the last five presidents, in fact, were lefties. The righties just can’t bring it, I guess, having had everything handed to them and not having to learn how to suffer through cutting paper with your other hand…or having to learn how to golf the opposite way because your dad wouldn’t spring for a set of lefty clubs and declared “you’re golfing right or finding another sport.”

Interestingly, the Autograph expert says that there’s no real way to know for certain whether a writer is lefty or righty just by looking at a signature and the way he or she writes the letter-strokes. After years of working with lefties to make their nibs write properly, Richard may beg to differ — although he’d be challenging the heavily researched opinion of the Southeastern Association of Forensic Document Examiners in the process, too.

While the candidate I want to win might not end up in office, I know one thing for sure: Whichever one takes the oath at January’s inauguration, it will be a win for the lefties. Good for us.

cover Further Reading: Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, by Jane Leavy

Speaking of great southpaws in October, you can’t go wrong with this peek at the history of one very famous lefty. That is, unless you’re not a baseball fan. This book, however, might win you over.

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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