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J. King Gordon

On October 23, 1980, His Excellency the Rt. Hon. Edward Schreyer, Governor General of Canada, presented this year’s Pearson Medal to J. King Gordon. In presenting Dr. Gordon to His Excellency, George Ignatieff, the UNA’s President made the following observations:

“I have the honour to present for the award of the 1980 Pearson Peace Medal for outstanding achievement in the promotion of international cooperation,King Gordon, member of the Order of Canada. the Pearson Medal was established by the UNA to honour individuals who by voluntary effort, personally most contributed to those causes for which Pearson stood: aid to the developing world, mediation between those confronting one another with arms, succor to refugees and others in need, an d peaceful change through world law and world organization.

This year’s medalist is conspicuously qualified in the view of the jury to win the award on all these counts. He has worked tirelessly for world peace through promoting international cooperation for the removal of the causes of war. He has also been responsible, by personal initiative, for launching and guiding Canadian organizations like the Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) and the Institute of International Cooperation. As an author and as a lecturer and as past President of the UN Association in Canada, he has consistently promoted the education of Canadians on international peace and development issues.

Your Excellency, I ask you, on behalf of the UNA, to make the 1980 award to King Gordon, distinguished Canadian, worker for peace, educator and humanitarian (and native of Winnipeg!)”

In his reply, King Gordon emphasized Lester Pearson’s world view : “deep abhorrence of war and (his) commitment to the building of peace… and realistic recognition that in the modern world, any nation’s security and well-being were to be found within a peaceful and just world community.”

Gordon sees himself as a witness to implementation of the peacebuilding movement. When the United Nations became based in New York, he was assigned to cover its activities by the Nation magazine and then by CBC. “From close range and sometimes from the inside, I was able to witness the struggle to move away from the traditional view of world affairs based on the pursuit of national goals and the threat of military might towards the new concept expressed in the UN Charter.”

Gordon joined the United Nations secretariat in 1950 in the Division of Human Rights under John Humphrey, a Canadian international lawyer. In his own word, he “gained some sense of the significance of the international sponsorship of human rights in the growing struggle against colonialism but also in the sensitizing of member nations to the rights of their own citizens.”

J. King Gordon was then posted to Korea where a UN agency was giving assistance to the Korean people in rehabilitating their country after the destruction of war. After that, he served under General Burns in the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East.

Gordon visited many places where UN military units and civilians carried out tasks of peacekeeping and rebuilding. “And through the recordings, people with names, with voices, doing the actual job of peacekeeping, the resolution of conflict, famine relief, community building. These were the people who deserved a Pearson Medal for Peace. I was just a witness and a reporter.”

J. King Gordon
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