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Extraordinary Canadians: Lester B. Pearson: A Penguin Lives Biography [Hardcover]

Andrew Cohen
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 16 2008 0670067385 978-0670067381 1st Edition

In his 2 terms as prime minister, from 1963–1968, Lester B. Pearson oversaw the revamping of Canada through the introduction of Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, the Auto Pact, and the new Maple Leaf flag. Pearson came to power after an impressive career as a diplomat, where he played a vital role in the creation of NATO and the United Nations, later serving as president of its General Assembly. He put Canada on the world stage when he won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his handling of the Suez Crisis, during which he brokered the formation of a UN peacekeeping force. Author Andrew Cohen, whose books have focused on Canada’s place in the world, is the perfect author to assess Pearson’s legacy.

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About the Author

Andrew Cohen is associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Cohen's previous books include The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are and While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World, which was a finalist for the Govenor General's Award and a Globe and Mail Notable Book. He lives in Ottawa with his family.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blessed Are the Peace Makers Oct. 28 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
This brief commemorative study on the life and times of Lester(Mike) Pearson covers a fair bit of the man's political record as one of Canada's leading diplomats, politicians and internationalists of the 20th century in cursory fashion. If the reader wants a more in depth coverage, Pearson's personal memoirs "Mike" is the place to go. Nevertheless, Cohen provides an accurate profile of Pearson has he rose from humble beginnings in rural southern Ontario to become a leading force in the promotion of world peace through quiet negotiations and timely intervention. While it would be hard to call Pearson a pacifist, he definitely pursued the need to defuse the presence of war mongering during the Cold War as a means of building a more secure future for the world at large. As both a realist and an adept broker, Pearson had the ability to bring conflicting parties together over issues like control of the Suez Canal and the Korean War. His leadership of the Liberal Party in the 50s and 60s was no different. As Cohen points out, Pearson's patience and skill as a prime minister, with moderate nationalist leanings, allowed him to take the country successfully through one of its stormiest political times with the support of two minority governments. At the end of his administration, he had given Canada a new flag, universal medicare and a host of other critical judicial reforms. While serving as a much deserved tribute to a special person in Canadian history, this book does not shy away from mentioning his warts; not least of all his jealousy of colleagues's success.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely riveting biography Oct. 1 2014
Absolutely riveting biography of an outwardly ordinary man who accomplished extra-ordinary things. Cohen deftly traces the life journey of this quintessentially Canadian statesman who made up for his lack of charisma with many lasting accomplishments. A very enjoyable and valuable read, not only for what it tells us about the man, but also for its historical content. Masterfully written, with a comprehensive bibliography at the end.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Canada's Liberal Internationalist Oct. 10 2008
Arguably, Canada's most accomplished Prime Minister, this biography of Lester B Pearson by Andrew Cohen is the latest in the Extraordinary Canadians Series edited by John Ralston Saul.

Pearson was always a realist, never much of an ideologue. Where Pierre Trudeau was mostly flash, Pearson was all substance. Cohen describes Pearson as being the middle inning reliever, not the flash of a starter, nor the brashness of a closer, Pearson was the "no-name" Prime Minister who knew how to get things done.

Overall, this is a good overview of a great man. It's not too full of detail but just enough to make it worth your while reading. I definitely recommend the book especially if you are Canadian.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Well Balanced Perspective Jan. 22 2009
Andrew Cohen presents a well-balanced perspective of this remarkable Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner. This is a very readable book. Cohen avoids getting caught up in biographical trivia and instead zeroes in on the key elements that truly define the man and the era in Canadian politics and world affairs which Pearson helped craft. One emerges after reading this book with a much fuller grasp of Lester Pearson the man and the pivotal role he played in shaping the Canada we know today.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Canada's very own 'Forrest Gump' politician Oct. 28 2010
With admirable insouciance, Cohen offers a charming sketch of Canada's very own 'Forrest Gump' politician, a man with a smile as bright and relevant as his bow ties who rose to preside over one of the most ineffective spasms of Canadian government.

Pearson was as dull as his predecessor was visionary; his talent was an ability to mediate passionate issues which came to define a vision of Canada that ultimately became real. He's the mirror image to John Diefenbaker, who inspired people with glowing visions of a rugged Canadismo but wasn't organized enough to get a cup of coffee and do-nut from a free lunch counter.

Cohen presents a masterful sketch of Pearson's career and achievements; yet, he fails to understand why Diefenbaker/Pearson duality is as significant as John A. Macdonald in the 1860s. Significantly, neither Macdonald nor Diefenbaker are included in this series.

In 1957, Diefenbaker lit the fuse of Canadian nationalism. In 1963, Pearson became the conciliator in the delicate art of statecraft who blended those surging nationalist passions into one nation. Had any prime minister of recent times been in office instead of Pearson, Canada might have been Balkanized into its five constituent parts.

Like Forrest Gump, Pearson was the right man in the right place at the right time with the right sense of compromise. After a cabal of vain hotheads launched the Suez crisis of 1956, and within days realized their mega-blunder, Pearson was the one whom all respected enough to accept his all-around face-saving solution. It was diplomacy at its finest, the most astute resolution of an international crisis since the United Nations was founded.
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