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  • A Tribute to the Iron Lady

    4/8/2013 2:07:26 PM Posted by Adam Tragone
    Young Britons' Foundation Foundation founder and chief executive Donal Blaney with Baroness Margaret Thatcher and Conservative MP Conor Burnsby Donal Blaney

    In June 2004, less than a year after I had set up the Young Britons' Foundation, I remember hearing that sad news that Ronald Reagan had died. World leaders and ordinary Americans alike wept and eulogized a truly transformative President whose latter years had been ravaged by the cruelty of Alzheimer's Disease - an illness made easier to bear by the strong support of his loving wife, Nancy.

    Today, nearly 9 years later, I find myself mourning the sudden death of Britain's greatest peacetime Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Widowed since 2003, Lady Thatcher had been in failing health for much of the last 10 years. I have found the news very hard indeed to take in. She seemed set, in her own words, to "go on and on" for years.

    Once again, world leaders are paying tribute to a remarkable, slightly built woman who rose from humbling upbringings in rural Lincolnshire to excel at Oxford University as a student in both chemistry and law before going on to become Britain's first (and so far only) female Prime Minister.

    Margaret Thatcher was and will remain a true female icon - a brilliant academic, a loving mother, a loyal wife and wrought with iron will. She did not need quotas and eschewed positive discrimination.

    She had greater courage and leadership ability than any British leader since Sir Winston Churchill. She faced down terrorism at home and abroad. She clawed Britain back from being ridiculed as "the sick man of Europe" in 1979. She faced down the over-mighty trades unions who had brought the country to its knees. She liberated the British economy, pioneering privatization of nationalized industries with a vision that was copied across the world.

    By the time she was ousted from 10 Downing Street in 1990 (by cowardly parliamentary colleagues and not by the electorate who had voted her into office three times, with ever larger numbers of votes), she bestrode the world stage like a colossus.

    Ronald Reagan turned to her first when he needed advice and support on international affairs (and she readily supported him as they redefined the Special Relationship between Britain and America) and his successor, George H.W. Bush, was warned by her not "to go wobbly" after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

    Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II were a formidable trio. Between them, they helped to defeat communism and ensured that the Cold War was won without a single shot being fired. Millions of people now live in freedom thanks in large part to Margaret Thatcher. Like Reagan, Thatcher is still held in awe in Eastern Europe for daring to stand up to the evil Soviet empire.

    No wonder Reagan called her "the best man in England." He was right.  As David Cameron said: "she made Britain stand tall again - she was the patriot Prime Minister".

    But Margaret Thatcher was no lapdog. She argued furiously with President Reagan over the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and was less than happy with the lukewarm support she received from the State Department in 1982 when she stood up to Argentine aggression in the Falkland Islands. But she did so with charm and a certain élan.

    On one occasion she phoned Reagan to berate him while he was in the Oval Office. As she began one of her characteristic monologues, the President held the phone away from his ear to his colleagues, beamed and simply said: "Isn't she marvelous?"

    What a remarkable woman. What a life of achievement. And now she is reunited with her good friend, Ronnie, where the two of them can look down benignly on us.

    It falls to us - the Young Britons' Foundation in Britain and Young America's Foundation in the United States - to protect and safeguard for future generations the legacies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan respectively.

    Margaret Thatcher delivered. Now it is our turn.

    Donal Blaney is the founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons' Foundation (www.ybf.org.uk). 

     

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