Born on St.
George’s Day in the year Queen Victoria’s diamondjubilee. Lester B. Pearson was the son of a Methodist parson, as a child he wasmoving from one place to another, then later he enrolled in history at theUniversity of Toronto. Then when World War I started, he enlisted in theCanadian Army Medical Corps, and then in 1915, he was shipped to Greece to jointhe Allied armies that were fighting the Bulgarians. After two years of medicalbearing, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in England. He was later runover by a London Bus, and his military career came to an end, and he had to goback home. He later earnt his bachelor degreeat the University of Toronto in 1919, but Pearson didn’t know what career topursue.
He tried to go into law and business, he won a fellowship to OxfordUniversity, and then he was hired by University of Toronto to teach history,which then he combined with tennis and coaching football. He found aprofessor’s salary too low, so he joined the Department of External Affairs. Around the year of 1935, Pearson wassent to London as a first secretary in the Canadian High Commission, and he sawfirst hand as European drifted towards World War II. He began his Europeanexperience badly when he recommended the Canadian Representative to the Leagueof Nations, Walter Alexander Riddell, “to put forward a proposal to imposesanctions on Italy after it invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in October 1935. King,who became prime minister later that month, angrily repudiated the Riddellinitiative in December, but Pearson escaped blame” (Biograhi).
“King and Skeltonhad both lost faith in the League of Nations and fretted about British policytowards European border tension and the Spanish Civil War that they fearedwould lead to confrontations, not only with Italy but, more dangerously, withAdolf Hitler’s Germany” (Biographi). Pearson returned to Canada in 1941. He wasthen sent to Washington as second-in-command at the Canadian Legation in 1942,since he was easygoing and had a very good personal charm, it made him a bigsuccess, especially with the press. Then as years went on, in 1945, after theSecond World War had finished, he was named Canadian ambassador to the UnitedStates of America, and he attended the founding conference of the UnitedNations at San Francisco.
In September 1946, Lester Pearsonwas called home to Ottawa by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, as he slowly tookhis retirement to become deputy minister of external affairs, he served underthe new secretary of state for external affairs, St. Laurent. The two of themquickly acquired confidence in each other and both of them were worried aboutthe tired Prime Minister. He continued to have a strong interest in the UN butalso promoted a closer and economic relationship between Canada and its allies,US and United Kingdom. Pearson’s work added up to Canada’s joining NorthAtlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, by playing major roles in the discussionsand urged Canada’s chief negotiator, Hume Wrong, to take better style to thetreaty. By the time the pact was finally signed in Washington, in the spring of1949. He strongly supported a Western self-defense organization, which wouldhopefully push Russia towards being peaceful.
By the time North Atlantic TreatyOrganization was in place, Politics caused Pearson to leave civil service,because he was encouraged by King and St-Larent. Later in September 1948, hebecame the minister of external affairs, and represented Algoma East, Ontario,in the House of Commons. Pearson was worried that the United States of Americawould return to pre-war isolationist tendencies and rhetoric and policiesreflected this concern. As minister, he helped lead Canada in the Korean War asa contributor to the United Nations army, and in 1952, he had served aspresident of the United Nation General Assembly, where he tried to solve theproblem, because of the war in Korea and the perceived threat of a Communistattack on western Europe. But all his trying annoyed the Americans, “whoconsidered him too inclined to compromise on difficult points of principle”(Canadian Encyclopedia). “Canada had followed the United States in refusing torecognize Communist China, but he had been deeply concerned about thepossibility that the war in Korea would become a broad conflagration after theChinese entered it in November 1950. When American general Douglas MacArthur,the commander of the UN forces in Korea, spoke openly about extending the war,Pearson decided that he must protest. In a famous speech to the Canadian andEmpire clubs in Toronto on 10 April 1951, he said that the UN must not be the”instrument of any one country” and that others had the right to criticizeAmerican policy.
He expressed his belief that “the days of relatively easy andautomatic political relations with our neighbor are, I think, over.” And theywere, even though Truman fired MacArthur later the same day” (Biographi). Oneof his best achievements throughout his career was when in 1956, he proposed aUnited Nation peacekeeping force, so that the French and British can get out ofEgypt during the Suez Crisis.
And with that plan, he received an award, thataward being the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. By then Pearson was no longer inoffice. He and the St. Laurent government were blamed for not standing byBritain in 1956. And because of that, the Liberals were beaten, and then St.Laurent resigned as leader, and then at a convention in January of 1958, LesterB. Pearson beat Paul Martin, to become a party leader. The Liberals faced aminority Conservative government under the leader, John Diefenbaker, and in firstact as leader of the opposition, Pearson challenged Diefenbaker to resign andturn the government over to him.
Diefenbaker dismissed the idea and in thegeneral election, the Liberals were reduced to 49 of the 265 seats in the Houseof Commons. Pearson began the task of rebuilding the party. “Historians havecalled his times the “golden years” of Canadian diplomacy. Although there arejustifiable doubts about the glitter of the period, Pearson’s own reputationretains its luster.
He had unusual freedom because of the consensus within theLiberal Party and the commons on the nature of the Soviet threat” (Biographi). PaulMartin and J.W. Pickersgill helped him do that, with party workers WalterGordon, Mitchell Sharp, and Maurice Lamontagne, he re-established the Liberalsas a nation party. The Liberals had a party total of 100 seats, in 1962, thanksto Pearson. Then a year later in 1963, the Diefenbaker government collapsedover the issue of nuclear weapons and in the election the Liberals won 128seats, enough to form a minority government. “Beginning in the 1960s, criticssuch as Robert Dennis Cuff and Jack Lawrence Granatstein would point toPearson’s strong and, in their view, strident anti-Communist speeches and hissternly anti-Communist policies in the first years of the Cold War, a positionlater adopted by historian Denis Smith, political scientist Reginald Whitaker,and journalist Gary Marcuse” (Biographi).
These people suggested that Lesterwould overestimate the dangers of Soviet Communism. Pearson thought Communismwas just as bad with Nazism. “He warned, for example, that “we did not takevery seriously the preposterous statements of the slightly ridiculous author ofMein Kampf. We preferred the friendly remarks of ‘jolly old Goering’ at his huntinglodge.” Mein Kampf had been the true agenda; similarly, Soviet leader JosephStalin showed a gentle side to the American vice-president, Henry AgardWallace, in 1944, but Pearson warned that the west should look at Stalin’sharsh statements, “which form the basic dogma on which the policy of the USSRUnion of Soviet Socialist Republics is inflexibly based'” (Bigraphi). Later in the year, on the 22ndof April 1963, Lester B. Pearson took office. It was expected that hisgovernment would be more businesslike than the previous government, but insteadthey were more “accident-prone” (Canadian Encyclopedia).
“Much of Parliament’stime was spent in bitter partisan and personal wrangling, culminating in theinterminable flag debate of 1964” (Canadian Encyclopedia). Again, Pearsoncalled a general election, in 1965, and again they failed to secure a majority.In the next year, the Munsinger scandal erupted with even more bitterness.
The year of 1965 marked a dividingline in his administration, when Finance Minister Walter Gordon departed, andall the way from Quebec, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Marchand became prominent inthe Cabinet. Pearson’s first term had a lot of attempts to appease Quebec andthe other provinces with “co-operative federalism” and “bilingualism” (CanadianEncyclopedia). “When, during his centennial visit, French president Charles deGaulle uttered the separatist slogan “Vive le Québec libre” to acrowd in Montréal, Pearson issued an official rebuke and de Gaulle promptlywent home. In December 1967, Pearson announced his intention to retire and inApril 1968 a Liberal convention picked Pierre Trudeau as his successor”(Canadian Encyclopedia). In all its apparent chaos, ThePearson government left behind a very good legacy of legislation: A new flag, aunified armed force (UN), a universal Medicare system, and a Canadian PensionPlan. “However, its approach to the problem of Canada’s economicallydisadvantaged regions was less successful and its legacy, which included theGlace Bay heavy-water plant, was decidedly mixed” (Canadian Encyclopedia).
Notall of these things were proven as helpful and some were costly, but theyshowed and represented the high point of Canadian welfare state that all thegenerations of social thinkers had dreamt about. And after, and while heretired, Pearson worked on his memoirs and on a study of international aid forthe World Bank.