Pearson: Canada is more than 'hockey players and quintuplets'
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.
• The speech also served as an explanation for Canada's decision to not join the Pan-American Union; a precursor of the Organization of American States.
• The Globe and Mail praised it as a "most influential address" that "phrased his story of Canada and her international outlook in factual yet colourful terms."
• Pearson rose quickly through the ranks at External Affairs thanks in part to his self-effacing manner and droll humour.
• He played significant roles in the League of Nations, the burgeoning United Nations and the forming of NATO.
• By this time Pearson was at the pinnacle of his civil service career. He had served a one-year term as the Canadian ambassador in Washington before being called back to Ottawa as undersecretary of External Affairs; the de facto head of the department.
• In the coming months he would decide to step into public life and run as a Liberal MP.
• By 1947 Pearson had earned a high profile in diplomatic circles and beyond as a prominent Canadian.
• This reputation began in 1930 when he attended both the Hague Conference for the Codification of International Law and the London Naval Disarmament Conference. He was also a member of the Canadian delegation to the League Disarmament Conference at Geneva in 1933.
• Pearson also advised the Canadian delegation at the 1945 San Francisco Conference where the United Nations Charter was drafted and affirmed.
• He would later be promoted to head of the Canadian UN delegation in 1948.
• In 1952 he was elected president of the UN General Assembly. The 51-9 vote was a testament to the high regard he was held in by member countries.
• He would serve a one-year term.
• Thanks to his prominent lisp and self-effacing manner, Pearson the politician would face criticism by the media for his uninspiring speaking skills.
• His handlers would puzzle over his inability to rouse a crowd and his frustrating habit of stressing the wrong words in a speech.
• Though Pearson was a hard-working and committed politician, he would later confess that he found the political process taxing. Unlike his rival, John Diefenbaker, Pearson did not revel in the spotlight and preferred negotiation to confrontation.
• Because of this, many of his best moments were unscripted and often happened outside formal political arenas.
• He also served under Vincent Massey at the Canadian High Commission in London, England from 1935 to 1941.
• During these years at Canada House he made a series of recordings for the BBC about life in wartime London. Under fear of conflict of interest he adopted the pseudonym "Michael Macdonald."
• It was in such wide-ranging talks that Pearson seemed most at ease. Confidants would later note that his lisp became more pronounced when he was delivering official speeches in the House of Commons.
• In 1948, at the urging of Louis St-Laurent, Pearson campaigned and won the Liberal seat in the federal riding of Algoma East. He was immediately appointed to the cabinet as Secretary of State for External Affairs. He would hold the post for a decade.
Broadcast Date: March 8, 1947
Speaker: Lester B. Pearson
Last updated: February 26, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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