Icons of Liberty

History will show that both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had – and have – done well.


President Ronald Reagan and Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were "political soulmates," Nancy Reagan once said.


Craig Shirley is the author of Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All and Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America. He is also president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs.

Margaret Thatcher once wrote about Ronald Reagan that he did not suffer from the "dismal plague of doubts" that bedeviled other Western leaders. Reagan once wrote that Thatcher "is a tower of strength." Together, the son of a shoe salesman and the daughter of a grocer changed the world.

It seems very fitting that the first foreign leader to visit Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1981 – and the last in 1989 – was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The "Great Communicator" and the "Iron Lady" disagreed on some things but agreed on many more including the heretical notion that the Cold War could be won.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the European debt crisis.]

Their friendship had begun some years earlier, in 1975, when then former governor Reagan paid a courtesy call on the then-obscure conservative member of Parliament. It was a dark time for Western conservatism. Later that year, on her first trip to the United States, Thatcher gave a speech entitled, "Let Our Children Grow Tall." It was a defense of freedom and free market economics, a fight which Reagan had been making for years himself. The two would go on to help lead an intellectual revolution that changed the dialectic of history.

Thatcher's and Reagan's – and Pope John Paul II's – is a legacy that will continue to grow. Scholarship on all three has only just begun.

One of the few people who called Ronald Reagan "Ronnie" besides Mrs. Reagan was Margaret Thatcher. Winston Churchill may have been Ronald Reagan's favorite Prime Minister before 1979 but after her rise to power, "Maggie" supplanted "Winnie" in Reagan's mind and heart. They were simply too much alike in outlook, in temperament, in how they viewed the world and the world stage.

[See Photos: The Life of Margaret Thatcher: 1925-2013.]

When Reagan passed away in June 2004, the former prime minister was not supposed to attend the funeral because of her own health problems. But at the last, she summoned the strength to make the trip. At the calling hours where Nancy Reagan greeted mourners at Blair House, Thatcher wrote in the book collecting memories and praise, "To Ronnie, well done thou good and faithful servant."

History will show that both Reagan and Thatcher had – and have – done well.