With the Liberal party back in government after an eleven-year run by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, we are seeing many figures who served Liberal governments throughout the 1990s and early 2000s returning in advisory capacities. One of those is Bill Graham, who was variably Foreign Affairs Minister, Minister of Defence and interim leader of the Liberal Party. While he might be unfamiliar to a new generation of voters, his autobiography The Call of the World, gives insight into Graham the politician and the inner workings of the Liberal governments under former prime ministers Paul Martin and Jean Chretien.
One of the more revealing memoirs by a Canadian politician to come along.
Graham’s “political memoir” The Call of the World is not only one of the best autobiographies ever produced by a Canadian politician, it is a deeply informed and insightful commentary on Canada’s international relations, both in policy and practice, as well as a passionate positive appeal for active citizenship from the local to the global.
Well written, and leavened with ample doses of humor and insight, The Call of the World
is above all a frank and compelling account of one policymaker’s efforts to reconcile our highest legal and human rights ideals with the real world. However imperfect, it’s a record worth celebrating.
[A]mong the most profound writing of any postwar Canadian politician … To read The Call Of The World is to sense a nagging conscience and sleepless nights … Graham is sincere and forthright … [He] deserves credit for plain honesty in a political memoir that breaks the mold of self-serving platitudes.
Bill Graham was foreign minister in 2003 when Canada infuriated George W. Bush by refusing to join his “coalition of the willing” and invade lraq. In The Call of the World Graham reveals the intense pressure that Bush put on Jean Chrétien, the prime minister, who turned down the president’s request to come to Ottawa and make his case in person. Canadians, who often feel bullied by their powerful neighbour, are entranced.The Call of the World
includes a good deal of interesting information about the nuts and bolts of electoral politics in this country and how they are changing.
Bill Graham’s political memoir, The Call of the World, provides a window seat to some of the most important domestic and foreign events of the past quarter century in a candid and colourful way.
I was in the Parliamentary Press Gallery for The Globe and Mail during the whole of Graham’s elected career and wrote about him from time to time. But I have to admit that I came away from his book with a greater appreciation of his gravitas and accomplishments than I reflected in my stories at the time – indeed the whole gallery underestimated him. If we had paid more attention to him and done our homework, the Canadian public would have been better informed.
It is rare when former politicians fail to use every word, sentence, and chapter of their memoirs to justify their decisions, to explain how they were either misunderstood or unheeded when things went wrong, and how their superior sense and profound understanding of what was necessary prevailed when things went right. It is precisely this rarity that makes The Call of the World: A Political Memoir so readable and unique.