or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 7/1/07

   July 7th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Gordon BrownThis is more of a trivia question than a reference question, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

A patron came up to the desk and asked,

What's wrong with the new British President?

I had a feeling she meant Gordon Brown, the new British Prime Minster, and confirmed this. But what was "wrong with him?"

Well, someone told me that he can barely see at all.

Ah. I remember hearing on National Public Radio, on the day Tony Blair handed over power to Gordon Brown, something about him being blind in one eye. I did a quick internet search and found two sources that confirmed this, an article on Wikipedia (of course) and an article in The Times of London.

To summarize:

"...at the age of only 16...[h]e suffered a detached retina, after being kicked in the head during an end-of-term rugby match at his old school. He was left blind in his left eye, despite treatment including several operations and lying in a darkened room for weeks at a time. Later...he noticed the same symptoms in his right eye. After undergoing experimental surgery...the eye was saved...he had the defective eye replaced with a glass replica..." (from Wikipedia)

That answered the patron's question, and she left happy with her new knowledge.

But it made me wonder - with all the talk about "is America ready for a woman or a black President," would America ever elect a blind (or otherwise handicapped) President?

Sure, there was FDR, but his condition was carefully downplayed or hidden at the time. Even when the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was constructed, a statue of him in a wheelchair was only added much later.

I think I remember that in the 2000 Republican primaries, some candidates were ridiculing John McCain for not being able to lift his arms over his head, due to war injuries. If something like that could be used as political fodder, surely blindness could. So, way to go Britain - thank you for being more mature than us.

british, gordon brown, libraries, library, prime minister, public libraries, public library, reference question

Tags: , , , , , , ,