Thatcher to Congress, 1985: Worth Remembering

Thatcher to Congress, 1985: Worth Remembering

Mar­garet Thatch­er, in her thought­ful and pre­scient remarks, post­ed by the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project, reached back into his­to­ry to recall how far the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples have come since vic­to­ry in World War II, and how much remained to accom­plish. Like Churchill, Lady Thatch­er would be pleased that for the most part, they met the tests before them, in his words, with “a stern sen­ti­ment of impar­tial jus­tice, and above all the love of per­son­al free­dom, or as Kipling put it: ‘Leave to live by no man’s leave under­neath the law.’” Churchill also warned Con­gress: “Be care­ful above all things not to let go of the atom­ic weapon until you are sure and more than sure that oth­er means of pre­serv­ing peace are in your hands.”

There is much of cur­rent rel­e­vance in the then-Prime Minister’s words: time­less truths that we would do well to pon­der. “The fron­tier of free­dom cuts across our con­ti­nent,” Lady Thatch­er said. In many ways it still does.

Thatcher (Excerpt):

Thatcher Win­ston Churchill’s vision of a union of mind and pur­pose between the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples was to form the main­spring of the West. No one of my gen­er­a­tion can for­get that Amer­i­ca has been the prin­ci­pal archi­tect of a peace in Europe which has last­ed forty years. Giv­en the shield of the Unit­ed States, we have been grant­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ties to build a con­cept of Europe beyond the dreams of our fathers; a Europe which seemed unat­tain­able amid the mud and slaugh­ter of the First World War and the suf­fer­ing and sac­ri­fice of the Second.

From these shores, it may seem to some of you that by com­par­i­son with the risk and sac­ri­fice which Amer­i­ca has borne through four decades and the courage with which you have shoul­dered unwant­ed bur­dens, Europe has not ful­ly matched your expec­ta­tions. Bear with me if I dwell for a moment on the Europe to which we now belong. It is not the Europe of ancient Rome, of Charle­magne, of Bis­mar­ck. We who are alive today have passed through per­haps the great­est trans­for­ma­tion of human affairs on the Con­ti­nent of Europe since the fall of Rome. In but a short chap­ter of its long his­to­ry, Europe lost the posi­tion which it had occu­pied for two thou­sand years—and it is your his­to­ry as much as ours.

Human progress is not auto­mat­ic. Civ­i­liza­tion has its ebbs and flows, but if we look at the his­to­ry of the last five hun­dred years, whether in the field of art, sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, reli­gious tol­er­ance or in the prac­tice of pol­i­tics, the con­scious inspi­ra­tion of it all has been the belief and prac­tice of free­dom under law; free­dom dis­ci­plined by moral­i­ty, under the law per­ceived to be just.

I can­not con­clude this address with­out recall­ing words made immor­tal by Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln in his sec­ond Inau­gur­al Address, when he looked beyond an age when men fought and strove towards a more peace­ful future: “With mal­ice towards none, with char­i­ty for all, with firm­ness in the right that God gives us to see the right. Let us strive on to fin­ish the work we are in, to do all which may achieve and cher­ish a just and last­ing peace among our­selves and with all nations.”

—Sup­plied by kind cour­tesy of the Mar­garet Thatch­er Foun­da­tion.

Remembrance by a Friend

This post­ing reminds me of 5 Novem­ber 1993, when Lady Thatch­er spoke to a gath­er­ing of Churchillians at the British Embassy in Wash­ing­ton.  After her remarks about Lin­coln and Churchill, she worked the room, talk­ing to peo­ple and shak­ing hands.  I won­dered what to say to her when she came my way.  As we shook hands I said, “Thank you for send­ing the forces south to retake the Falk­lands.”  She replied, “You know, when the Argies went into the Falk­lands there was noth­ing to do but throw them out!”  Ear­li­er, as I stood lis­ten­ing to her speak, I sensed some­one move in to stand behind me.  When she was done I turned around and saw Col­in Pow­ell.  I greet­ed him and shook hands. Notic­ing the rib­bon bar in my lapel for the Army Com­men­da­tion Medal he said, “Thank you for your ser­vice.”  Great stuff. —D.S.R., Iowa City, Ia.

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