Farewell, Maggie

November 23, 1990

For all her combative hardheadedness, in the end Margaret Thatcher left with all the grace, style and wit that characterized her 11 1/2 years in office -- the longest tenure of any British prime minister of this century.

She came to power in 1979, at a time when Great Britain seemed to be faltering, and became a sort of national nanny, a super-Mary Poppins, so to speak, who disciplined her children -- firmly but with love. The problem was, her children grew up and began to disobey her -- with love but firmly. The rebellion that brought her down came, in effect, when she told her grown-up children they couldn't go to Europe. There was irony in the fact that she was attending a 36-nation conference on European unity in Paris when she got the news that her days were numbered.

On the international scene, her great achievement will be that she was the first Western leader -- the very first -- to recognize the "courage and vision" (her words) of Mikhail Gorbachev. She then persuaded that obdurate old Cold Warrior, her friend Ronald Reagan, that he could "do business" with this New Soviet Man. Without her enthusiastic public support, Gorbachev's Herculean tasks would have been even more difficult.

As a national and world leader, she undoubtedly will go down as one of the tallest of her generation.

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