Lester Pearson and the Concept of Peace: Enlightened Realism with a Human Touch


  • Adam Chapnick


In the overwhelming literature on the life of Lester Bowles Pearson, Canada’s only recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, little attention has been paid to the complexities and paradoxes that made up his approach to peace at the practical level—both how he expressed it, and how others interpreted and responded to his views. Pearson’s understanding of peace was grounded in a combination of Methodism, personal experience, and Canadian nationalism. It was both bold and intrinsically appealing: a unique mixture of faith, a belief in justice, and an unflinching acceptance of the realities of the contemporary global environment. It was not cynical, but nor was it profoundly idealistic. Those whose only association with Lester Pearson is United Nations peacekeeping might well be shocked by the military undertones of his conception of collective security and by the unapologetic elitism that contributed to his recipe for peace.