On a personal level, the death of the Iron Lady, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is very painful for me, as she is someone who has been my role model for many years. In college, I even hung a poster of her above my bed so that I would be inspired to go to chemistry class, and of course, change the world (Thatcher was a chemist by training). Thatcher not only inspired me because of her conviction, but she helped shape who I am today. Her no-nonsense attitude, her determination, and her ability to break barriers for women was something we haven’t seen in any leader of my generation.
More than any other one figure, it is because of Margaret Thatcher that I am a Conservative today. When I first learned about Thatcher I was in my early teens, but I didn’t truly study her policies until my freshman year of college. It was then that I realized what a remarkable woman she was. Her privatization of state-run companies, her approach to unions, her emphasis on deregulation, and her attitudes – toward Communism in the USSR, toward the 1982 war over the Falklands, toward the United States, and toward the state of Israel – all taught me not only why these specific viewpoints were important in the given circumstances, but how important the principles are that motivated these policies to begin with.
Thatcherism was not only successful in improving the economy, but it represented something far greater than free market Capitalism alone: it represented Thatcher’s belief in freedom for the people of England, and it demonstrated her understanding of human nature.
Thatcher believed that self-discipline and personal responsibility are the keys to success. She once said herself, “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.”
She sought to create a society that was better for all, but also allowed individuals to achieve their full human potential. Thatcher said in an interview with Women’s Own magazine in 1987 that, “…there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour.”
Thatcher didn’t believe the success of one is at the expense of another (something we hear so often today), and she didn’t believe it was the government’s job to look after everyone, but that that responsibility fell to individuals, families, and churches. Her viewpoints proved spectacularly spot-on by the remarkable economic growth that occurred under the guidance of her economic reforms. Unlike many today, she understood that the key to individual freedom and happiness in any society, and the only true path to developing human rights, is through allowing the free market to function, and to the greatest extent possible, removing hindrances.
Thatcher also understood the importance of Western Civilization, and with that came her support for the United States and for the state of Israel. Thatcher recognized the exceptional history of the UK, and that from it came the United States. “Europe will never be like America. Europe is a product of history. America is a product of philosophy,” she said.
Her relationship with President Ronald Reagan was well-known and well-documented, but it is her love of the Jewish people that is especially relevant here. In policy, Thatcher was a staunch supporter of Israel, but also believed in land for peace, and disagreed with several actions that Israel took; viewpoints with which some may disagree. However, even when it was not popular, Thatcher supported the Jews. Once she became Prime Minister, she appointed at least eight Jewish men to important government positions, something fairly uncommon for the times; and when a golf club In her district banned Jews from becoming members, she publicly protested against it. She was a major supporter of Soviet Jewry, she also helped to found the Anglo-Israel Friendship League of Finchley, and was a longtime member of the Conservative Friends of Israel.
Her history with the Jews goes back earlier than her political career. In 1938 Margaret Roberts (later Thatcher) saved a 17-year-old girl from the Nazis by raising funds and housing her in different homes of her family’s rotary club. She later stated about her actions that, “Never hesitate to do whatever you can, for you may save a life.”
But perhaps more important than any one belief she held is that she didn’t back down. Today we have this idea that politicians should be Machiavellian, but Thatcher didn’t compromise on her principles — and it worked. “If it is once again one against forty-eight, then I am very sorry for the forty-eight,” she said.
Certainly, not everyone agrees with all of Thatcher’s policies during her eleven years as Prime Minister, but the world must acknowledge that she was (and is) a figure to be admired for her tenacity and convictions. Although she has passed away, I am certain that her political trailblazing will continue to inspire future generations of young women (and men) and that her legacy will be remembered.
Rest in Peace Lady Thatcher.