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Success Stories

We always love stories about left-handers who have made a difference in their community or made some special contribution to improving the lives of left-handers or awareness of left-handed issues. We will use this page as a "gallery" of the best stories we come across, so if you know about a lefty who has been a bit special, please let us know.

  Public speaking - Out in Left Field (Nathan Shami)

Public Speaking - Nathan Shami Out in Left Field


The Left-Handers Club member, 10 year old Nathan Shami is the latest winner of The Royal Canadian Legion Zone public-speaking Contest.

Nathan's topic for a five-minute memorised oral presentation he had to make in his 5th Grade class at St. Bernadette School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Canada, was the history of left-handedness and the the perils of being a lefty in a righty world. Nathan used info from our site together with material from other sources to write his oral which we publish in full in the next section.

Nathan's oral was deemed one of the two best in his class and his performance earned him the right to compete against all the other Grade 4,5, and 6 age group at his school. He won there and went on against the schools in the East Zone of the city, won there, and went to the city wide competition and won there.

At these latter levels, the competitions are sponsored annually by the Royal Canadian Legion veteran's association. Having won the city wide title for his age group, he went on to compete against a large zone of neighbouring communities and won there!

Then, Nathan went to the next level which took in a virtually all of Northern Ontario, an area of many hundreds of thousands of people, and finished a very close second.

In any case, Left-handers Club is very proud to know that somewhere in the wilds of Northern Ontario lives a boy who feels special being left-handed. He has spoken eloquently about the lefties plight before many and varied audiences. His presentation was always engaging and drew comments from audience members afterwards who were especially fascinated to learn that many of our right handed customs derived from famous lefties in order to give them the "upper hand".

Nathan's parents, Bob and Anne-Marie Shami told us: "Many commented on how interesting his presentation was, to righty and lefty alike. We are proud of our son but have to acknowledge that his success would not have been possible without your input and material to work from. Isn't the Internet making the world a smaller place?"

Nathan Shami: "OUT IN LEFT FIELD"

"Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Buzz Aldrin, Paul McCartney, and my Uncle Mike. All of these people have something in common with me. Do you know what it is? I'll give you a hint.

Has anyone ever said that you were so clumsy you must have two left feet? Have you ever been insulted with a left-handed compliment, or maybe you had left-overs for supper last night? You see, the English language is full of expressions that are uncomplimentary towards me and all the other people on that list. We are all part of the 10% of the world's population who are left-handed. Judges, teachers and parents, today I will speak to you about our right-handed world and how it can sometimes leave us southpaws feeling left out.

So why are 90% of people right-handed? It wasn't always this way. Studies of stone-age tools show them to be equally divided between right and left-handed. As tools became more sophisticated, a hand preference had to emerge because it just wasn't practical to make two sets of every tool. But why the preference for the right-hand? One theory says that because the heart is on the left side, your shield had to be in your left hand in order to protect it. Therefore, any weapon had to be held in your right hand, which then became the dominant hand.

Over time, everything became so right-handed, lefties were seen as unnatural, the odd ones out, even evil. This can be seen in the languages of many cultures around the world. In Latin, the word for left is sinister, and the French word for left, gauche, refers to awkward or clumsy behaviour.

Even the devil is thought to live over your left shoulder, while Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. This is why we throw spilled salt over our left shoulder. Salt was considered a good and valuable thing, so spilling some brought bad luck unless you threw some of it back into the devil's face.

Many right-handed customs developed over time. Curiously, many of these were created by lefties to give them a sly advantage. Take the handshake, a right-handed custom everywhere. This was invented by the Romans. An extended right hand, the hand in which most people held their weapon, meant that you had no intention of harming the person you were meeting. This was only a custom - not mandatory until Julius Caesar made it the law. Why? Caesar was left-handed and wanted to keep his strong weapon hand free while shaking hands. If everyone shook right-handed, this gave a lefty like him the advantage in case he was greeting a secret enemy.

The hand most people used to hold their weapon even determined what side of the road cars are driven on today. It started with European foot travellers. They walked on the left side of the road, keeping their right hand, in which they held their sword, closest to the side of oncoming and possibly unfriendly travellers. Soon, everyone travelled on the left. This tradition was ended in France by the armies of Napoleon, France's famous left-handed general and emperor. Instead, he made his armies march on the right. This way, the sword in Napoleon's left hand was always between him and approaching enemies. To this day, countries first colonised by the French, like Canada, follow Napoleon's example and drive on the right-hand side of the road. British countries still drive on the left as they have always done.

But it's still mostly a right-handed world. Struggling with buttons and right-handed scissors, or constantly smudging the ink on my homework - well, that can be pretty annoying. But the poor lefty who has to struggle with a right-handed power saw? Well he risks losing more than just his composure!

At least left-handers aren't considered evil anymore. People now realise it's not a bad habit to be left-handed, it's just the way we are made. In fact, we are now seen to be more accomplished in music and the creative arts. Not only that, 25% of NASA astronauts are left-handed.

So, in conclusion, I bet you'll never look at a left-hander the same way again - RIGHT?"

Nathan Shami, January 2002


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