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Lester B. Pearson on Front Page Challenge

United Nations peacekeeping. Canada's first Nobel Peace Prize. The Maple Leaf flag. Official bilingualism. The Canada Pension Plan. These are a few of the achievements that can be credited to Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson during his 40 years in public service. But the passionate and pragmatic Pearson was also a sportsman, intellectual and war veteran who defied easy definition.

This Christmas 1960 episode of CBC's Front Page Challenge features a "very special guest" in the form of Lester B. Pearson. Nearly three years to the day after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Pearson finally makes his appearance on the popular current affairs quiz show. While he receives a warm welcome from the audience, as leader of the Official Opposition he is faced with some thorny questions from the show's panellists.
• As host Fred Davis points out, the mystery guest could not be in the studio due to special circumstances.

• This is because Pearson was actually in an Ottawa studio. His voice and image were being broadcast live to the Front Page set in Toronto.

• Davis called this an "electronic marvel" made possible by "remote control." The early live footage was most likely the result of a microwave feed, which CBC Television had begun experimenting with in the early 1950s.

• The ever-humble Pearson seemed to hesitate for a moment when he was asked by Toby Robins if he was "a very prominent Canadian." Davis quickly steps in, saying "Yes, indeed it is."

• Gordon Sinclair's question about the Cuban delegation was a prickly one for Pearson thanks to the recent election of John F. Kennedy in the United States.

• Kennedy had swept into the White House that November and Pearson was one of those caught up in the phenomenon of the young president.

• Inspired by his use of polling Pearson hired Kennedy's pollster, Lou Harris, to conduct surveys for the Liberal party.

• This marked the first time that such strategies had been used in Canadian politics.

• After questioning Canadians about their views on their leaders, Harris said that most believed that Pearson was a better diplomat than a politician.

• Harris promptly recommended a Kennedy-styled facelift. This included trading in his trademark bow tie for a straight one and dispensing with problematic phrasing in his speeches, such as "seven successive deficits" which exaggerated his lisp.

Medium: Television
Program: Front Page Challenge
Broadcast Date: Dec. 20, 1960
Guest(s): Lester B. Pearson
Host: Fred Davis
Panellist: Pierre Berton, Toby Robins, Gordon Sinclair
Duration: 13:13

Last updated: December 28, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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