One Year After Her Passing: We Must Honour Margaret Thatcher's Legacy
Today we mark the first anniversary of the death of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s greatest peacetime leader of the 20th century and the nation’s first female Prime Minister. This year also sees the 10th anniversary of the death of her great friend and ally, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan and Thatcher helped to free hundreds of millions from living under Soviet tyranny. Both leaders were re-elected with handsome landslides. Both restored their nations’ pride and, by proudly standing for limited government, lower taxes and personal freedom, emboldened wealth creators to unleash their creative talents to the benefit of us all even still to this day.
It is tempting for those of us who lived through the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions to want to bask in their successes, at the same time bemoaning the failings of the current crop of “leaders” who have followed them. While both Barack Obama and David Cameron have readily invoked the names of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher respectively to curry favour with conservative voters in the United States and Britain, neither of the current occupants of the White House or 10 Downing Street can surely believe that they are proving to be as consequential a leader as their illustrious predecessors were.
While Americans have properly recognized the achievements of their leaders over recent decades through presidential libraries and museums, the same cannot be said to be the case in Britain. Winston Churchill’s beautiful home, Chartwell, has been preserved for the nation and a new college was established at Cambridge University in his honour but nothing more was done to protect the legacy of Britain’s heroic wartime leader – let alone anything being done for any other 20th century British political leader.
It was to reverse that reality, and to protect the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, that I conceived of the Margaret Thatcher Centre in 2009. I wanted to create a facility, modeled on Young America’s Foundation’s Reagan Ranch Center and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, that would teach future generations from across Britain and around the world about Margaret Thatcher’s remarkable life, values and achievements.
The project secured the enthusiastic backing of Lady Thatcher and her principal political adviser, Sir Mark Worthington, in the few short years before her death. Ever modest, Lady Thatcher made it plain that the Centre must not become a backward-looking shrine to her personally. She would only give her support if the Centre’s programmes and exhibits focused on the centrality and continuing relevance of her powerful ideas and political philosophy.
The Centre, she said, must be forward-looking, inspiring future generations to defend liberty, democracy and the rule of law with the same passion and gusto that she personified.
The Margaret Thatcher Centre, temporarily based in London but eventually to be housed in a purpose-built facility in Cambridge close to the Churchill College archives that house her papers, began its public fundraising after Lady Thatcher’s funeral last April.
Our two-stage goal - $8m to launch a series of international and domestic educational programmes and then $40m to endow the exhibit galleries – has attracted support in Britain and America, both from political leaders such as Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Newt Gingrich, her cabinet colleagues, friends and advisers and from other prominent admirers such as Rupert Murdoch.
The Margaret Thatcher Centre is needed more than ever today. We cannot let the history of the 1980s and the life of Margaret Thatcher be written by her detractors. We need to educate future generations about her life, values and achievements, so that we may one day see another Thatcher or a Reagan show the same levels of courage, principle and leadership that those two giants did.
Margaret Thatcher delivered. Now it’s our turn.
Donal Blaney is the Chief Executive and Founder of the Margaret Thatcher Centre. You can donate to support the important work of the Margaret Thatcher Centre at www.thatchercentre.com.