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Handedness of Presidents of the United States

The handedness of presidents of the United States is difficult to establish with any certainty before recent decades. During the 18th and 19th centuries left-handedness was considered a disability and teachers would make efforts to suppress it in their students.[1][2] For this reason there are few concrete references to determine the handedness of presidents prior to the early 20th century.

List of U.S. presidents by handedness since 1923[1][3][4]
President Party Term Handedness
Calvin Coolidge Republican 1923–1929 Right-handed
Herbert Hoover Republican 1929–1933 Left-handed
Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat 1933–1945 Right-handed
Harry S. Truman Democrat 1945–1953 Left-handed[5]
Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican 1953–1961 Right-handed
John F. Kennedy Democrat 1961–1963 Right-handed
Lyndon B. Johnson Democrat 1963–1969 Right-handed
Richard Nixon Republican 1969–1974 Right-handed
Gerald Ford Republican 1974–1977 Left-handed Ambidextrous
Jimmy Carter Democrat 1977–1981 Right-handed
Ronald Reagan Republican 1981–1989 Left-handed Ambidextrous
George H. W. Bush Republican 1989–1993 Left-handed
Bill Clinton Democrat 1993–2001 Left-handed
George W. Bush Republican 2001–2009 Right-handed
Barack Obama Democrat 2009–present Left-handed

The first president to be described as left-handed was Herbert Hoover,[6] though this has been disputed.[3] There is no evidence of any left-handed president before Hoover, although it was said about President James Garfield that he could simultaneously write Latin with his right hand and Greek with his left.[4] Gerald Ford was also ambidextrous. He described himself as "left-handed sitting down and right-handed standing up".[7] Being forced by his schoolteachers and parents to switch handedness was the case with Harry Truman, according to the biographer David McCullough.[8]

Ronald Reagan is also rumored to have been left-hand dominant, but forced by his schoolteachers and parents to switch.[6] Documentation of this is unreliable. If true, it would place Reagan in the category of ambidextrous presidents.[3] Historical photographs of Reagan signing treaties, pacts or pieces of legislation show him signing with his right hand. Additionally, several photographs exist showing Reagan throwing baseballs and footballs as a right-hander. However, Ronald Reagan did wear and display his weapon on his left hip and left hand, when he played a cowboy during his acting career.

As of 2014, three out of the last four presidents have been left-handed. Counting as far back as Truman, the number is five (or seven, if the two ambidextrous presidents are included) out of twelve. In the 1992 election, all three major candidates – Bill Clinton and Ross Perot – were left-handed.[3] The 1996 election also involved three left-handed candidates: Clinton, Perot, and Bob Dole, who learned to use his left hand after his right hand was paralyzed by a World War II injury. In the 2000 election, democratic candidate Al Gore was also left-handed.[9] Both major-party candidates in the 2008 presidential election – Barack Obama and John McCain – were left-handed.[10]

The percentage of the population who are left-handed is about 10%.[4] While some write off the pattern of presidential handedness as a coincidence, others have tried to come up with scientific explanations. According to Daniel Geschwind, a professor of human genetics at UCLA, in 2008: "Six out of the past 12 presidents is statistically significant and probably means something".[4]

Amar Klar, a scientist who has worked on handedness, says that left-handed people "have a wider scope of thinking", and points to the disproportionately high number of Nobel Prize winners, writers, and painters who are left-handed.[6] Michael Peters, a neuropsychologist at the University of Guelph, points out that left-handed people have to get by in a world adapted to right-handers, something which can give them extra mental resilience.[1]

The pattern, however, is not replicated in other countries; only two British post-war prime ministers have been left-handed (David Cameron[11] and James Callaghan).[4] Winston Churchill has often been credited with being a left-hander, although he was not.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Chung, Andrew (2008-03-02). "Odds are next U.S. president will be left-handed".  
  2. ^ Macrae, Fiona (2008-10-24). "As two lefties vie for the American presidency... why are so many U.S. premiers left-handed?".  
  3. ^ a b c d Rotstein, Gary (2008-02-25). "Another left-handed president? It's looking that way.".  
  4. ^ a b c d e Pilkington, Ed (2008-10-24). "Revealed: The leftist plot to control the White House".  
  5. ^ McCullough, David. "Truman". p47 "Naturally left handed, he was taught [by his teachers] to use his right hand".
  6. ^ a b c James, Susan Donaldson (2008-02-22). "Four Out of Five Recent Presidents Are Southpaws".  
  7. ^ Kaczmarczyk, Jeffrey (December 14, 2012). "See two little-known secrets about President Ford revealed in a televised 1955 Christmas message". Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  8. ^ McCullough, David (1992). Truman. New York; London: Simon & Schuster. p. 43.  
  9. ^ Pilkington, Ed (October 23, 2008). "Revealed: The leftist plot to control the White House". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Rotstein, Gary (February 25, 2008). "Another left-handed president? It's looking that way". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  11. ^ "Picture of Cameron signing".  
  12. ^ Ed Wright, A Left-handed History of the World (2007) p.244

Further reading

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