Lester Bowles Pearson

Acceptance Speech

Lester Bowles Pearson’s Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1957

May I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your very kind and generous words. I am sorry that I am not sufficiently educated to have understood them in Norwegian but I was able to detect two words, “Lester Pearson”. They seemed to me to recur all too frequently but I suppose that in the circumstance it was hard to avoid that.

I am very conscious of the fact this morning that I have received an honour that cannot fail to arouse deep emotion in the heart of the recipient. My feeling of pride and honour is increased by the presence here today of His Majesty and Her Royal Highness and by the fact, sir, that you are presiding over the ceremonies.

I realise also that I share this honour with many friends and colleagues who have worked with me for the promotion of peace and good understanding between peoples. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in that work as a representative of my country, Canada, whose people have, I think, shown their devotion to peace.

I am deeply aware of the fact that in receiving this honour I am entering a company of men and women who have served humanity with unselfish and constructive devotion. They include, I know, two great Norwegians, Christian Lange and Fridtjof Nansen. I feel very proud and humble at having my name now linked with such men, because of the choice that you, sir, and the members of your honourable committee have made.

I am particularly happy to be able to receive this prize in Norway, a country which has so well discharged its duty to the international community and to Peace.

Alfred Nobel, not himself a Norwegian, recognised this when he conferred on Norway through your Committee the honour and responsibility of making the Peace Award.

On this occasion I wish to pay my sincere tribute to this great Swedish man of vision and action, who worked hard, lived nobly and ensured that his influence for good would extend far beyond his own life time.

Alfred Nobel decreed that this award should be conferred on someone who, in the opinion of the Committee, should have done the most or the best work to promote fraternity between nations for the abolition and reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

As to the first, I do not know that I have done very much myself to promote fraternity between nations but I do know that there can be no more important purpose for any man’s activity or interests.

So far as abolishing arms are concerned, those of Nobel’s day are now out of date, but I know, as you do, that if the arms which man’s genius has created today to replace them are ever used they will destroy us all. So they must be themselves destroyed.

As for the promotion of peace congresses we have had our meetings and assemblies, but the promotion through them of the determined and effective will to peace displaying itself in action and policy remains to be achieved.

Alfred Nobel – with a whimsical touch – once said:

“I would not leave anything to a man of action as he would be tempted to give up work; on the other hand, I would like to help dreamers as they find it difficult to get on in life.”

Perhaps this sentiment should have a special appeal for Norwegians who, though adept in overcoming difficulties by practical action, have been described as a “people who luxuriated in the wealth of their dreams.”

Of all our dreams today there is none more important – or so hard to realise – than that of peace in the world. May we never lose our faith in it or our resolve to do everything that can be done to convert it one day into reality.

The great Ibsen has one of his characters in the play “The Emperor and The Galilean” say:

“There are three Empires. First there is the Empire which was founded on the tree of knowledge. Then there is the Empire founded on the tree of the Cross. The third is still a secret Empire which will be founded on the tree of knowledge and the tree of the Cross – brought together.”

The award which I have received today at this ceremony, which my wife and I will always remember with emotion, is a renewed incentive to work with all other men of good will in the world for the triumph of Ibsen’s third Empire, that of the Empire of Peace.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1957, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1958


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1957

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