What it sounded like - Macleans.ca

What it sounded like


The recently launched Canadiana Discovery Portal—a searchable collection of various historical archives—is a treasure trove of old photographs, speeches and documents from prime ministers and governments past. The gem of my searching so far though is an audio recording of Lester B. Pearson addressing an audience at the University of British Columbia in 1965, two years after he became prime minister.

It’s a remarkable listen on a number of fronts.

To hear Mr. Pearson’s speech impediment—that funny little lisp—is a bit startling (could a man speaking like that get elected prime minister today?), but it’s interesting to hear how much power he gets out of that little-sounding voice and how he uses cadence and volume to become bigger than himself. The crowd is incredibly unruly and as the speech goes on the heckling becomes constant. I don’t think I’ve ever personally witnessed such an atmosphere for an address by a Canadian leader—maybe because people now are more reticent, maybe because few leaders now ever put themselves in front of crowds that aren’t controlled or selected. It’s difficult to say without seeing his reaction, but Pearson doesn’t sound much deterred. That willingness to speak over the hecklers, even take them on directly, presents a certain kind of openness that is compelling to hear.


What it sounded like

  1. I'm listening to the speech right now, and it's fascinating.

    Wherry, thanks so much for linking to this speech, and for alerting us to the existence of the Canadiana Discovery Portal—a treasure trove, as you say, for anyone who is interested in Canadian history.

  2. Agree with CR. Now that can be a rare occurance.

    Mike Pearson, with that funny little lisp and the bow ties, flew planes in WWI. I doubt he would have been intimidated by this crowd.

  3. Ahhh back in the day….politicans gave barn-burner speeches, and crowds heckled.

    Then TV came along….the fiery speeches sounded absurd on TV, and you couldn't hear anything if people were rowdy. So they behaved.

    TV is a cool medium said McLuhan, and the medium is the message.

  4. I liked how Pearson responded to the heckler at 14:25.

    "One of the disadvantages of a very large audience is that you don't get all the words of wisdom from the audience."

  5. Can someone tell me how to play the file?

  6. Nevermind!

  7. Ha! That's brilliant!

  8. This is amazing.

  9. It's refreshing to see some apolitical trivialities from Mr. Wherry.

    Curiously, they always seem to come at the same time (and more curiousor in place of),

    hugely important political stories that are devastating to the liberal cause.

    In the instant case, the crumbling Liberal infrastructure (and ship jumping to the CPC) in the much coveted 905 region:

  10. Again, I hate to interrupt the sudden move away from highly topical and current news of the polity, in favour of 1950's era pictographs,

    but it seems Ms. Dhalla is denying the bonafides of the seniority of the ship jumping crew, while…..get this…..the CPC are posting online, documentary evidence including a business card which describes said individual to be precisely how the CPC describes it, and putting a lie to Ms. Dhalla's denials.

    Not only doth she protest too much, she doth protest too dishonestly.


    back to that 1970's picture of the back of Trudeau's head.

  11. Chet – maybe YOU should be the one working for the national newsmagazine… Until then, get your own blog or quit reading.

  12. Yes, what's that expresion – put up or shut up, chetlins. If you want Harper adulation, head over the BT's.

  13. Heh. I beat Wherry by two days! ;-)

    As noted by Doug Saunders in the Globe the other day, if you search "hockey", you'll find photographs of Lester B. Pearson on the ice in Switzerland, as well as an 1856 account of Captain F.W. Beechey's travels through the Northwest Passage and his observation of First Nations playing a game that looked like hockey.

    How's about that! Hockey, history, Pearson and Arctic exploration! Hold my Brain; be still my beating Heart.

  14. When I was 10 years old I met PM Pearson. In fact he and I shared a bag of potato chips. When he put his hand into my bag of chips, I knew right then and there a Liberal took and didn't pay. True story.

  15. Such a pity that at even such a young age, you had mental problems.

  16. Once again I agree with you.

  17. Exactly. Just amazing.

  18. So you really didn't want to share, is that it? Reformers always think they're being ripped off. What year was that by the way?

  19. They were Humpty Dumpty too! Imagine the Prime Minister of Canada,….. Mounties,…… photographers,….. and reporters and none of them would buy me a Coca Cola.

  20. If you were the same whiney little jerk then, that you are now….I wouldn't have bought you anything either.

  21. The emperor has no clothes. The economist has no plan. And Page is probably not going to have a budget going forward – they couldn;t get away with firing him, could they?

  22. They jumped to Jason Kenney's good bud, now why would anyone do that?

  23. I've been a fan of the young lady for a few years. It's worthwhile taking a tour
    through the site archives. She's dynamite.

  24. She has books and t-shirts, too. I bought a good friend the "My Love for you is so Riel" shirt.

    Cartoons for canadian political history wonks.

  25. I remember you referring her to me a few years ago!

  26. He's probably the little tyke that threw wheat at Trudeau. He's still emotionally scarred, it seems.

  27. I deleted my earlier comment because I've now seen this one.

    Comment 1: You complain because a Liberal took and didn't pay.
    Comment 2: You complain because nobody would give you something for free.

    So, it isn't that a Liberal took and didn't pay, it's that YOU didn't get to do it!

  28. I just chalk this up to yet another reason why Maclean's should stop non-registered accounts from posting.

  29. Thank you very much for the link, good stuff.

  30. You were paid. You have been dining out on this ever since. Your brush with fame.