Monday, April 8, 2013

An Iron Lady, A Shining Example: A Tribute to Margaret Thatcher

You could say many things about the late, great Margaret Thatcher, and people certainly do, proclaiming her alternately heroine and villain, tough and cruel, powerful and power-hungry. Upon the news of her passing last night of the last in a long line of strokes, Twitter lit up with proclamations of “ding, dong the witch is dead,” as well as the outpouring of millions who respected the so-called Iron Lady. Childish tweets aside, the world has lost one of its great female leaders, who – regardless of whether or not you agree with her politics – served as an example to women everywhere of the greatness they could achieve and the place in history that could be theirs.

Hillary learned how to wear a pair of sunglasses like a BAMF from Ms. Thatcher

Like many Americans of my generation, born after Ms. Thatcher served from 1975-1990 as Britain’s first female Prime Minister, most of my contact with the Iron Lady has been through pop culture, particularly through the film of the same name. The Iron Lady upset me for many reasons, primarily because it focused on Ms. Thatcher’s mental decline in her later years rather than her incredible achievements as Prime Minister. Yet in defense of the film, it highlighted how little I knew about someone who I would eventually look up to and respect for her resolve, commitment, and fearlessness in the face of adversity.

Margaret Thatcher’s 15-year-long tenure in the Prime Minister’s office, the longest of any 20th century PM, was defined by her nationalism, conservatism, and privatization policies. In the United Kingdom, she will be remembered as the woman who faced down the IRA in Northern Ireland and treated the troubled country as “as British as London.” The assassination of British MP Airey Neave in 1979 led to her decision to not treat the conflict as interstate, thus denying POW status to Irish prisoners and allowing 10 Republican detainees to die of their hunger strikes.

Thatcher to world: "Come at me, bro"

Ms. Thatcher also earned criticism for involving Britain in the Falklands War, her position towards oppressive regimes in Cambodia and South Africa, and her privatization of British steel and coal industries and breakup of the power of the trade unions had negative consequences for the British working class. Personally, I disagree with many of Ms. Thatcher’s policies. Yet I respect her as a leader, especially given that she was a woman in charge in an era even more close-minded and sexist than our own. When I consider how many disadvantages women face in attaining and keeping positions of power today, I can’t help but be awed by Ms. Thatcher’s sheer fierceness and tenacity.

In the words of Pres. Obama, "She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered." It speaks volumes that when asked to name the greatest British PMs, Ms. Thatcher’s name is always mentioned in the same sentence as Winston Churchill. So thank you, Ms. Thatcher, for all you have done to show the women of the world that we, too, can achieve greatness in this lifetime. Your legacy will stand as an example for generations to come, and the pathway you paved will continue to be appreciated by women the world over. Rest in peace.

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