Canadian Biography – Lester B. Pearson

These passages are from Gordon Gibb’s Prime Ministers of Canada: Lester B. Pearson. The book was published quite recently, so I took the historical perspective of the quotes from Lester B. Pearson rather than the publishing.


“Never again was I to look on the sea even from a Prime Ministerial Suite on a luxury liner, with anything but fear and distaste.” (pg. 17).

I found the quote interesting because it shined light on the characteristics and experiences of Lester B. Pearson while also providing some insight and foreshadowing into the times that were about to hit Lester Pearson and how he was going to react. The quote explains how because of Pearson’s bad experience at sea has affected his view and opinion on the sea. The experience was bad enough that Pearson had gained an internal fear of the sea which resembles PTSD. I had the chance to see a lot of PTSD symptoms when I am around my dad because he killed his wife in a car accident, so I understand the trauma that comes with these life-changing experiences.

The passage reveals some of the hideousness of war in the times of Pearson as it implies he may have seen some vulgar scenes which is what fuels his current distaste for the sea. It may also imply that Canadian values could have been more abhorrent as well since there were events which could radically influence Pearson’s perspective. The line may not specifically say anything about being Canadian now but when you contrast current Canadian values at the values of then, it seems that current Canadian values are more peaceful and less mentally-taxing. Current Canadians live in mainly in peace and aren’t as exposed to war and gore as Canadians may have been 60 years ago.


“Taking off and flying was easier than coming back down again. I was safe in the air – but coming back down was something else again.” (pg. 21).

This quote resonated with me due to its flexibility and how it can be applied to many situations in life. When Pearson said this, he was taking his first solo flight ever so his nerves were shaken and he didn’t have a clear idea of what he was doing which is why he didn’t want to take the step back down. He had a sort of watershed safety while he was circling around in the air and stalling his landing. I have felt this feeling many times before when I am scared of something so I loiter around and bide for time. For example, right now I have only begun writing this essay the day before it is due because I try and hold off on attempting something I am not confident in until I am absolutely forced to.

As the quote was taken from Pearson when he was forced into a solo flight without much consent, it shows that the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian values didn’t care as much about how the soldiers felt and seemed to value the overall strength of the military over the individual’s needs which is a left-wing view. I believe that these ideals remain quite consistent to today’s Canadian Armed Forces as people often have the connotation of strict enforcement and meager voices for the soldiers when thinking about military.

“If Lester is my name, ‘Mike’ is what I am usually called. This change goes back to World War I when I was training with the RFC. My Squadron Commander felt that Lester was no name for an aspiring fighter pilot and decided to call me ‘Mike’. It stuck.” (pg. 25).

I found this quote quite interesting as there was minimal context and it was very glaring towards an avid reader. At first, I thought that the quote was quite irrelevant as it provided no pertinent information, but when I analyzed it more carefully I realized that it made Pearson look more friendly. When reading a biography, people often begin to idolize the person and place them on a pedestal, but this quote metaphorically knocks down the pedestal and makes Pearson feel more fun rather than a person who only knows work. The quote helps provide a fuller perspective of Pearson and his personality. When I was in middle school, my grade 6 teacher called me Tan and it stuck for the next 3 years of middle school, so I understand what Pearson felt.

The quote shows that bullying and discrimination laws were less strict and more accepted in the community as the Squadron Commander indirectly insulted Pearson’s name and got away with it. If a teacher told me that my name was dumb and gave me a new name, that would not be as acceptable as it was 60 years ago. Even if I agree with their opinion, they probably would not even think of saying it as some people could regard it as offensive.

“Mike Pearson handed his suitcase to a fellow he assumed was there to assist him with checking in. ‘Oh yes, Pearson. We were expecting you. I’ll show you to your room. However, first let me introduce myself. I’m Powell, the Senior Tutor.” (pg. 33).

Similar to the last quote, I like how this quote shows that Pearson isn’t some perfect cookie-cutter mold. If the last quote shows that Pearson was fun and friendly, then this quote shows that he makes embarrassing mistakes like all other humans. Pearson mistook his Senior Tutor to be a concierge which is awkward and probably not the best first impression. Like everyone else, I have also done similarly embarrassing things before. When I was small, I mistook a random lady to be my mom and I tried to hold her hand which was a very traumatic experience for me as a child.

This quote isn’t as heavy on Canadian values as the rest are but it does show that maybe concierges didn’t wear as distinct uniforms as they do nowadays since Pearson confused his Senior Tutor to be a random concierge. Contrarily, concierges and hotel staff all wear uniforms to display their alignment with the hotel nowadays.

“Pearson had begun to believe that Canada could stand up for itself, and for its own rights with the capacity to work out fair and equitable agreements with other superpowers like the US – on her own, without the need to seek Britain’s permission.” (pg. 45).

I chose this quote because this defined one of Pearson’s strongest characteristics which was his sense of nationalism as well as pride. Pearson loved Canada and fought his hardest to ensure that the nation he loved was doing the best it could. This quote resonated with me because when it comes to debate which is one of my passions, I have a sort of pride too where I need to always be putting in 100% and coming out on top. Although some say pride is a deadly sin, it can be very powerful if used wisely.

This quote shows that Canada didn’t always use to be the big global power it is today and it was actually under the rule of Britain. Canadians didn’t see themselves as Canadians but instead part of the British commonwealth. Pearson trailblazed the new Canadian ideals for independence and to become its own self-sustainable powerhouse. If it wasn’t for these ideals, we wouldn’t have our current Canadian values because we could have possibly still been a British colony.

THEME: Pride is often the downfall of many people, but when used wisely, it can become a sense of belonging or will to protect that propels people to work harder and stronger.

Lester B. Pearson is someone who has mastered the use of pride. His pride comes from a sense of belonging to Canada as well as a will to protect the nation he loves. He uses these core feelings and values to continuously push himself further and make sure that he is doing the best he can. The problem with pride is some people lose their focus and their pride becomes twisted. They become less proud of their cultures or work and become infatuated with the idea of themselves. Pride can bring ruin to many successful people, yet it can be the spark in someone’s journey forward.

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