Monday, April 8, 2013

A tribute to the Iron Lady

I have no doubt that the actress Meryl Streep is a liberal in good standing in Hollywood.  She brilliantly portrayed ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a couple of years ago and won an Oscar for that performance. 

Today, she made a very gracious statement to the press on the occasion of Margaret Thatcher’s passing due to a stroke at age 87.  Although Ms. Streep didn’t agree with Ms. Thatcher’s politics, she highlighted what was most important to her, and to young girls, about the Prime Minister – she was a model for women to be powerful in the world in a way that has nothing to do with their gender.  I think Meryl managed to highlight one of Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievements – her own success against stunning odds. 

 “Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics.

It is hard to imagine a part of our current history that has not been affected by measures she put forward in the UK at the end of the 20th century. Her hard-nosed fiscal measures took a toll on the poor, and her hands-off approach to financial regulation led to great wealth for others. There is an argument that her steadfast, almost emotional loyalty to the pound sterling has helped the UK weather the storms of European monetary uncertainty.

But to me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit. To have come up, legitimately, through the ranks of the British political system,class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement. To have won it, not because she inherited position as the daughter of a great man, or the widow of an important man, but by dint of her own striving. To have withstood the special hatred and ridicule, unprecedented in my opinion, leveled in our time at a public figure who was not a mass murderer; and to have managed to keep her convictions attached to fervent ideals and ideas- wrongheaded or misguided as we might see them now-without corruption- I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness, worthy for the argument of history to settle. To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable.

I was honored to try to imagine her late life journey, after power; but I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side. I wish to convey my respectful condolences to her family and many friends.”

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister when I was changing my politics from liberal to conservative, and I still think she gave Britain and the world what was needed at that time.  Now, I think the time for Thatcherism has passed in Britain just as the time for Reaganism has passed in America.  But both leaders stood for what they believed was needed and were able to implement their visions.  And I believe that both leaders saw what was needed for their time.

Time passes and new visions are being hashed out in the messy arena of politics.  The world could do a lot worse than having new leaders arise with the integrity and strength and ability of Margaret Thatcher.  I honor her and her passing, and I thank Meryl Streep for a gracious eulogy for her.