December 17, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, Your Honour and other hon. members of the house will probably realize why I was so anxious that this house should get through its business in time to permit of prorogation on Saturday night. I do indeed feel at the moment that it is almost easier to endure criticism than to receive praise in public. However, I should be less than human were I not very deeply

Prime Minister-Birthday Greetings
touched by the words of friendship and regard which have been expressed this morning by the leaders who have spoken on behalf of all parties and by the member for Kootenay West. I thank my hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken); my hon. friend for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) who is leading the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation; my hon. friend the leader of the Social Credit party (Mr. Low); and my very close friends, the minister of veterans affairs (Mr. Mackenzie) and the leader of my party in the province of Quebec (Mr. St. Laurent), and all here assembled, for the tributes so generously paid to me this morning.
May I take advantage of this opportunity not only to thank hon. members of this house for the good wishes they have extended but also members of the other house of parliament, my friends in the press gallery, officials of my own department and other departments of the service and many others for expressions of good will they have sent to me at this time. I am sorry that thus far I have not had, and I doubt if I shall have this week or perhaps at all, an opportunity to convey my thanks personally, but I shall be happy if this word might be regarded as a very sincere expression of thanks to those in my own country and those in other countries who have been kind enough to send me birthday greetings.
My hon. friend the leader of the opposition has said something about my mistakes in the past, and hopes that I will not make many more in the future. I think the hon. member for Vancouver East also made some reference to my mistakes. Well, I thank the Lord that I have not made as many mistakes as they have made. Though I have lived a longer time I feel pretty sure my mistakes have been fewer than theirs. However, I wish for them what they have wished for me, that they may make fewer mistakes in the future.
May I say a word about the references which have been made to what some have said seems to be an evidence of renewed youth and vigour and strength. I must confess that I do feel in better health than I have felt in many years, despite the fact that I am seventy-one years old to-day. If hon. members will reflect for a moment they will see immediately the reason for this. No man in the position of responsibility I have held during the past six or eight years could possibly expect to feel other than more than burdened by the load of responsibility he was carrying. All during the war I was very concious of the fact that much of my real self was being repressed, and necessarily so, because of an unwillingness to say a word or do any thing which might, however great the provocation, occasion the least strife
or increase opposition between parties in this house and in the country. During the period of the war I often wished that I could let loose on some hon. gentlemen opposite, but at the time I realized that I was the leader of a party government and that there were other parties in this house, so that much I should like to have said in answer to what seemed to me most unfair criticisms of the administration, I felt I should refrain from saying, and endure in silence. Repression is not good for anyone, particularly in the matter of speaking one's own mind. I confess that not infrequently I felt a bit ahamed of myself sitting here and listening without retort to some of the very unfair and unjust criticisms which were made from time to time. But if it helped to get through that period as well as we did, then it was all to the good.
However, the real burden was not that. It was the thought that was shared by all hon. members and by the people of Canada generally of the terrible suffering being endured and the appalling loss of life incurred by our fellow countrymen and by men and women throughout the world. The burden of that thought was great indeed; to realize that to-day. all that is in the past is to be freed of a load the like of which has not had to be borne at any other time.
May I say that the year immediately preceding the war was even harder to endure than the actual war years. Often I felt at that time that something terrible was coming, something in the nature of colossal catastrophe for mankind, that- one would have to make decisions of a nature which might affect the course of events for centuries to come. In those days the load was much heavier than it was when, as between the contending forces of good and evil, came the opportunity to fight it out.
Now the war is over, and we have won. Canada has won a glorious place among the nations of the world, and the men and women of our armed services have fought a battle unsurpassed by the men and women of any other country. In this outcome one naturally feels great cause to rejoice.
I feel particularly happy when I think of what Canada accomplished during the period of the war and of what our country is doing in helping to relieve distress in the world to-dav.
May I say to the members of my own party who have presented me with the beautiful flowers that are before me, that I deeply appreciate the sentiment to which they have given such generous expression in flowers, but which they have been too modest to express in words.

Just a word in conclusion. Looking to the future I feel more optimistic at this hour than I have at any time. Over the troubled waters of our day, I see on the horizon of the future the beginning of a new world order. There is much to cause alarm and concern; but I believe the heart of the world is more sensitive to the needs of mankind to-day than it has been at any previous time.

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