Editorial: Margaret Thatcher served her nation, world with dignity, smarts

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

Margaret Thatcher earned her nickname the Iron Lady. She ruled Great Britain for 11 years, and as the Associated Press noted, she “imposed her will on a fractious, rundown nation — breaking the unions, triumphing in a far-off war, and selling off state industries at a record pace.”

Through it all, even her critics concede she left office with a country in better shape financially than when she took office. A political mutiny ousted her. The former prime minister died from a stroke Monday morning in London. She was 87. The tributes poured in, as they should.

“Margaret Thatcher undoubtedly was one of the most remarkable political figures of the modern world,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Barack Obama said many Americans “will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President (Ronald) Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history. We can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”

“Let us not kid ourselves. She was a very divisive figure,” said Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press secretary. “She was a real toughie. She was a patriot with a great love for this country, and she raised the standing of Britain abroad.”

Thatcher rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance, her admirers say. For critics, she was, as AP put it, a heartless tyrant who ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak out onto the streets and let the rich become filthy rich. But isn’t that the naure of leadership? Some despise you while others admire you. Think Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama.

Thatcher was the first female prime minister in Britain’s history. And no female has followed her. Thatcher told the Liverpool Daily Post in 1974 that she did not think a woman would serve as party leader or prime minister during her lifetime. She proved herself and her country wrong.

She was a great woman, a great leader, a person who did what she thought was right and stood up to the consequences. That’s what you want in a leader.