Great Britain and the world have lost a great leader. The Heritage Foundation, like all of America, has lost a faithful ally. And, speaking personally, my wife and I have lost a dear friend.
Lady Thatcher now takes her place in history alongside Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington and all the other great British heroes who defeated enemies of their island nation. An intrepid warrior for freedom and human dignity, Prime Minister Thatcher stood with her “noble friend,” President Ronald Reagan, to confront the Soviet empire when it was at its peak.
Her courage and steadfastness earned the respect of her fiercest foes. It was, after all, the Russians who dubbed her the Iron Lady.
At home, Lady Thatcher’s free-market reforms were revolutionary – and salutary. Using deregulation and privatization, she restored Great Britain, once dismissed as the “sick man of Europe,” to its position as a world power. Indeed, her policies led the way and inspired other nations – including those in newly free Eastern Europe – to adopt similar reforms to boost their economies.
Characteristically clear-eyed, she called Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein “psychopaths” in a Washington speech to members of The Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club on Dec. 9, 2002 – 15 months after the September 11 attacks.
Lady Thatcher, who visited Heritage more than a few times, was in town that evening to receive the Clare Boothe Luce Award, our highest honor for contributions to the conservative movement. Despite her achievements, though, she never lost a gracious personal touch.
The day after her address, she spoke to our staff. But she insisted it not be in a formal setting. She wanted a room and a microphone – and she got it. She then delivered a speech with Heritage employees crowded around her, as if she were a soccer coach giving a pep talk to her team on the field.
That is how I will remember Lady Thatcher: in the middle of things, working to advance freedom, inspiring others to join her.
I not only had the privilege of visiting Lady Thatcher and being introduced to some of her closest allies in Britain, but of returning the courtesy by introducing her to some of Heritage’s best friends in America. To the end, as embodied in the Iron Lady, age only strengthened the storied “special relationship” between our nations.
We will do our best to live up to Margaret Thatcher’s example of principled leadership and iron will.