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Lester B. Pearson (Canada)

Elected President of the seventh session of the General Assembly

Photo of Lester B. ("Mike") Pearson

Lester B. ("Mike") Pearson became President of the General Assembly seventh session by the choice of 51 of the 60 Member states. That vote was a tribute to his long experience of international affairs and the impression he has made in United Nations circles from the days of the San Francisco Conference. At San Francisco, Mr. Pearson was an adviser to the Canadian delegation, and he has been a representative of his country to every Assembly session. Since 1948 he has headed the Canadian delegation.

The most recent United Nations office of his was the Chairmanship at the 1949 session of the Assembly's important Political Committee. Earlier, in 1947, he was Chairman of the same Committee during the difficult special session on Palestine. At the close of that session, striking tributes were paid by many representatives, tributes to "leadership, ability", "efficiency", "genorosity", fairness, and, not least, "liveliness." In acknowledging these, Mr. Pearson recalled an aspect of his career which gives to the new President of the General Assembly a rather unusual distinction-his long record as a civil servant before he became a Foreign Minister-when he said that, as one who had worked on secretariats he knew who really did the work.

Born in Toronto on April 23, 1897, Mr. Pearson graduated from Victoria College, University of Toronto, and then went on its fellowship to St. John's College, Oxford, where he took his Bachelor's Degree in 1923, followed two years later, while teaching in Toronto, with his Master's Degree. He was elected an Honorary Fellow at St John's in 1946.

Professor and diplomat. After hit university days, interrupted by service during the First World War and followed by five years of university history teaching, Mr. Pearson entered the department of External Affairs as a first secretary in 1928. Until 1935 he served in Ottawa, although special missions took him to other capitals and throughout Canada.

He was in the office of the High Cornmissiona for Canada in London from 1935 to 1941, was recalled to Ottawa as Assistant Under-Secretarl Of State for External Affairs in 1941, and in 1942 as Minister Counsellor in the Canadian Legation. Two years later, the legation was raised to an Embassy, and Mr. Pearson became Ambassador in 1945. In 1946 he was recalled to Ottawa as Under-Secretary.

Mr. Pearson's international experience goes back to 1930 when he attended the Hague Conference for the Codification of International Law and the London Naval Disarmament Conference. He was a member of the Canadian delegation to the League Disarmament Conferencee at Geneva in 1933 and 1934.

His United Nations experience dates from May 1942, when he was a member of the Canadian delegation to the Hot Springs Food Conference which laid the foundation for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In July 1943, he became Chairman of the United Nations Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture and, in October 1945, Chairman of the First FAO Conference in Quebec City.

When the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was established in November 1943, Mr. Pearson was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Supplies and represeated Canada at subsequent UNRRA meetings in 1944, 1945 and 1946.

Mr. Pearson had been the chief civil servant in the Department of External Affairs for two years when, in 1948, he was summoned by his Prime Minister to head the Departmeat on the elected cabinet level. The next month he was elected to public office for the first time when he became a member of the Canadian House of Commons in a by-election. He was returned again in the general elections in June 1949.

In recent year he has headed the Canadian delegations to North Atlantic Council meetings and at the end of the seventh session held in Ottawa in 1951 assumed Chairmanship of the Council for one year. He has also attended other recent international and Commonwealth conferences in his capacity as Secretary of State for External Affairs.

Courteous, clear, and frank in his dealings with the press, Mr. Pearson is famed among correspondents for his excellent press "briefings" as valuable for off-the-record background information as for quotable material.

Former athlete. In his role as President of the Assembly, Mr. Pearson will not suffer one hardship felt by some presiding officers, for he smokes only occasionally. He never did so before he entered public life. His father and grandfather were Methodist ministers, and in his younger years he played hockey, lacrosse, and semiprofessional baseball and coached varsity football and hockey teams. At Oxford he won his hockey and lacrosse blues.

In his habits, he is well known for his punctuality; in his attire, for his bow tie; in his personality, for his friendliness, as outwardly expressed in his grin; and in his relaxation, for his fondness for baseball.

In 1925 Mr. Pearson married Maryon Elspeth Moody, of Winnipeg. They have a son and a daughter.