The greatest Canadian

Essay by prasanthCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2005

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The greatest Canadian

When it comes to Canadian Prime Ministers, few accomplished so much in so little time as Lester B Pearson. During his five years in office Pearson oversaw the introduction of the Canada Pension Plan, a national system of universal Medicare, the Commission on bilingualism and biculturalism, and the Maple Leaf Flag. And, he did it all without ever winning a majority government.

In addition to his two terms as Canada's 14 th prime minister, Pearson was Canada's foremost statesman in a distinguished 20-year career with the Department of External Affairs. His crowning achievement was winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his creation of the United Nations peacekeeping force during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Through it all Lester Pearson - or "Mike" as he preferred to be called - maintained a self-effacing manner and wry wit that endeared him to a generation of Canadians during the tumultuous 1960s.

Although Pearson never took himself too seriously, he took what he believed in very, very seriously, and turned those beliefs into action and achievement, again and again.

Long before he began to jet around the globe as Canada's greatest diplomat and the world's problem solver, the young Pearson moved many times with his family to various Ontario towns because of his father's vocation as a Methodist minister. Born in 1897 in Newtonbrook, Ontario (now part of Toronto), Pearson's childhood was filled with god, good works and athletics: mostly hockey and his favourite, baseball.

In 1913 he enrolled at the University of Toronto's prestigious Victoria College. Just after he turned 18 Pearson enlisted to fight in the First World War. He first served in the medical corps on the eastern front, then with the Royal Flying Corps. After the war, Pearson won a scholarship to Oxford University and then accepted a...