Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Leading From the Front

Lady Margaret Thatcher October 13 1925-April 8, 2013.

I was sorry to hear today of the death of the great Margaret Thatcher, a woman who led Britain out of its labor-oriented, 1930s-style past and prepared it to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

There was none of this "leading from behind" nonsense with Prime Minster Thatcher, the longest-serving British Prime Minster of the twenthieth century and the only woman to serve in that office. She was out there on the leading edge taking positions she believed in. Her country is the better for it.

President Ronald Reagan and his friend and ally PM Margaret Thatcher, with Nancy Reagan and Denis Thatcher.

As a young reporter in Washington D.C. I covered, or tried to cover, what became one of the most important events of her term as Prime Minister--the Falklands War. Since we, in Washington, weren't anywhere near the Falklands, we did our live reports night after night from in front of the British Embassy, the largest such diplomatic institution in Washington. 

My father followed the war with a great deal of interest, since, during the Falklands War, the RAF used Wideawake Field on Ascension Island as its air base. My father served with the U.S. Army's 38th Engineers on Ascension during World War II and it was his unit that blasted Wideawake Field out of volcanic rock. He had been organizing a fortieth anniversary of the field and a reunion of his unit to take place on Ascension--and it had to be postponed due to the war. 

The war was not a made-for-television story. Ships leaving Portsmouth in the United Kingdom early that April in 1982, took almost three weeks to reach the Falklands. During those weeks of coverage of British ships doing nothing but steaming across the Atlantic, I remember my news producer saying with a great sigh one day: "I am so bored with this story. I am so over the Falklands. Nothing ever happens!"

And so it goes (as Linda Ellerbee used to say) in television news.

There were eventually a few violent battles and the islands were retaken. It was the first time since World War II a Western power had stood up for itself and walked away a winner. Mrs. Thatcher's popularity soared. 

She turned out to be prescient on several other points as well: she was reluctant to make Britain's economy subservient to Europe's as a full partner in the European Union. Britain, at least, was able to hang on to the British Pound Sterling, something her nation is thanking her for today.

By joining with Reagan and the U.S. in facing up to the Soviet Union and exposing it as a failed state with nothing but bad intentions she helped bring about an end to the costly and dangerous Cold War. And, by privatizing many of the government-owned industries in Britain, she enabled her nation to get on its economic feet again and rejoin the world of free enterprise.

She seems to have broken just about every stereotype there is. She was feminine and womanly and wore beautiful clothes, and was still able to be so tough that one Soviet wag dubbed her the "Iron Lady." In a world in which the Left often seems to own women's issues, the most powerful woman of her time was a woman of the Right. In her nation of class distinctions and male primogeniture, it took a woman raised above a grocery shop to put the Great back in Britain. 

She was rewarded with a life peerage and became Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. But better than that she became the first living British Prime Minsiter to be honored with a statue in the House of Parliament. They placed hers near the statue of her hero Winston Churchill. And though she said she would have preferred it be of iron, she admitted the bronze was just fine.

Margaret Thatcher, a great lady. May she rest in peace.

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Janet Grunst said...

I so appreciate your post, Robin.
Margaret Thatcher was a dynamic leader, a great lady, and an inspiring personality. She spoke her mind with courage and grace. Along with President Ronald Reagan, she helped to change the world.

One of my fond memories of living in the Washington metro area was going to the White house when she was there.

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