Quotes from “Citizen of the World”

  1. Apologizing for failing to write to an apparent mutual friend, Pierre wrote: “I should like to call it laziness; yet it truthfully is nothing but lack of genius. I, who always believed myself simple and ‘like unto a little child,’ have realized that I am, unfortunately, a complicated adult unable to speak a simple thought, without forethought and afterthought.”

This passage is fascinating, as it offers a glimpse into a young adult who will become one of Canada’s premiere premiers. The idea of constant self-discovery, and changing focus/perception of one’s self in the world is embodied by how Pierre shifts from “little child” to “complicated adult”. His musings also note how it is unfortunate to be a “complicated adult”, perhaps reminiscing of a time where he could be a little child, with no need of such complex things as forethought and afterthought. I feel as if everyone can relate to this emotion! This also connects to later passages, not selected here, that describe him as calculated and considerate of every word, while maintaining an image of spontaneous wit.

Here, you can clearly see Trudeau Sr. redefining his own personal identity, much like the idea of a Canadian identity at the time. During this period, he was staunchly French in his beliefs, not quite the cosmopolitan Canadian he will become. Our national identity seems to still be as fluid as it was when Pierre was young; shifting, changing, and defined by what we no longer are.


  1. I must become a great man. It’s amusing to say that! I’m often surprised to think, as I walk alone, do others not see the signs, don’t they sense that I bear within me, the makings of a future head of state or a well-known diplomat or an eminent lawyer? I am frankly astonished that those things do not shine through. And I have compassion for those who will not be able to boast in ten or twenty years of having seen me a single time.

Prophetic as this passage might be, it is also interesting that he uses “must”. He reads as arrogant and sure in his power and potential, definite in future greatness. But the first line bears a burden of “must”, as if he is has been involuntarily thrust into a position where he must become great, or otherwise waste the makings of a “future head of state or a well-known diplomat or an eminent lawyer”. Somewhat similar to our own subdued cockiness, as “gifted” students, given a title and a label and a burden of our own.

Here we can see the beginnings of Canadian identity being encased in the concept of potential, and looking towards the future. Of course, this kind of eminence was only really possible for a rich child of high-profile parents, but revolutionary ideas must start somewhere. It reflects on how we as a people see our own potential, and work to make that a reality.


  1. Among those needs in Canada was a more explicit understanding of human rights—a term that was becoming increasingly current in the postwar world.68 These rights were to be grounded in a democratic society—“no other form of government safeguards those values better”—where the dignity of the individual person was most completely fulfilled.

In prior chapters, Trudeau’s conflicting beliefs and new understanding of law and politics is reflected through his pondering of different systems. Here we can see how he focuses in on democracy, strong in his belief that “no other form of government safeguards those values better”. His experience in learning, first at the Université de Montréal, then at Harvard, helped “[him] realize then that we were being taught law as a trade in Quebec and not as a discipline.” Here is a shifting world-view, different from the first, but still much in the same vein. Things are changing.

The image of Canada as a country “where the dignity of the individual person was most completely fulfilled”. Although this isn’t the most logical rule, the concept of left and right wing focusing on the person and the group respectively applies here, as Pierre Trudeau follows his personal ideals. Another theme arises, of someone who visualizes success and works towards it.


  1. Wearing a thin beard, Trudeau returned to Montreal in May 1949 with traces of the intense Middle Eastern and Asian sun on his hardened and lean body. He had acquired a broad knowledge of international politics and, through his education, of contemporary political economy. That knowledge formed the basis for political views that had become more secular, liberal, and egalitarian, and that coexisted with a renewed yet different Roman Catholic faith. He was less interested in nationalism and, indeed, in history and more concerned with what he was beginning to describe as “effective” and “rational” approaches to politics. He had, most definitely, grown up in respect to his “pedagogy” and his social and political views, although there remained an unpredictability and elusiveness about him.

This is fascinating! Here we see the beginnings of post-nationalism, of “effective” and “rational” approaches to politics that can apply internationally. Trudeau has gained a far more cosmopolitan view of the world, and able to converse effectively of foreign nations would be a brilliant political advantage. His views are updated and synced with global ideas, with a new understanding of how politics and economics are entwined.

I believe that this is the kind of Canadian identity we are shifting into, and what was incredibly progressive for the times. Arguably, “effective” approaches to politics may still be in the conceptual zone, but the concept of post-nationalism is taking root now that international travel is more readily available. To be Canadian now, or at least in one of the major cities, is to be cosmopolitan in views and culture.


  1. The mystical mingled with simple good luck and crafty planning to make Trudeau’s television presence so striking. He consciously created an aura of intrigue, adventure, and intellectual brilliance about him. The last came easily to Trudeau, although, characteristically, he sometimes had private doubts.

Trudeau’s takeover of television is attributed to his careful presentation, constructing an image of intrigue and brilliance. Here we can see how, having reached some level of stability in his personal identity, he is constructing a livelier version for the press and the public. Perhaps we too, create the different faces of ourselves beyond the isolated truths we keep inside.

This connects to an oft-repeated note on Canadian identity, how the image of the constantly polite and acceptant Canadian is just that, a false image and pretense designed for the public.


Theme: To achieve one’s goals, one must actively seek learning from all sources available and constantly compare worldviews with those of cosmopolitan ideals.