Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech opening Bhavan Centre

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Institute of Indian Culture, Institute of Indian Culture, 4a Castletown Road, London W14
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Late morning. MT left No.10 for the appointment at 1030.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1417
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Monarchy, Commonwealth (general), Defence (general), Education, Foreign policy (Asia), Health policy, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Religion & morality, Terrorism

Mr. Chairman, Lady Mountbatten and the Mountbatten family, Mr. Mayor, High Commissioner, distinguished guests and all other friends present today. It is of course a very great honour to be asked to name this hall after Lord Mountbatten. It is also a great privilege to come to the Bhavan again. You very kindly referred to my previous visit, Mr. Chairman, and I note that a prophecy that I made then was happily fulfilled. I hope that it wouldn't be tempting fate too much if I were perhaps to venture on another prophecy, namely that I will visit the Bhavan again during my second term of office.

It was also a very happy occasion when I went to the Bhavan in Bombay to lay the foundation stone for the Institute of Management and Research as recently as last April. I am sure that occasion holds some lessons for us here because I note that the Institute is in full working order only five months after the foundation stone was laid.

May I thank you Mr. Hathi for your delightful words of welcome and for giving me the honour and privilege of the title of Shrimati? But I hadn't realised its full implications until you actually spelled them out. Health—I have indeed; learning—I try; character—I do not think my enemies would contend that; wealth I have yet to achieve but moral values are what life is all about and the Bhavan is a wonderful example.

I was wondering just exactly what I could say about Lord Mountbatten that hasn't already been said so many, many times before but all so true and all so wonderful. I re-read the last biography of him and came across some advice which he said had been given to him by his Princess Victoria of Battenbergmother. I note in the biographies of so many, many great men that they have usually profited from some advice from their family. And he said this: [end p1]

“My mother said: don't worry what people think now, don't ever work for popularity. Above all don't care what the newspapers say. What is important is that your decision should be clear and stand up to history. So all you have got to think about is whether your children and grand-children will think you have done well.”

By that test, the Mountbatten family test, Lord Mountbatten did brilliantly and the whole people of two nations applaud his tremendous achievement. But it is a lesson not by seeking popularity as an end in itself but by doing the things which he felt had to be done and did so magnificently. It seems remarkable that when Lord Mountbatten had this great duty thrust upon him to bring India to independence he was only forty-six.

Now I know there are some in the hall who are well below forty-six and who think that forty-six is quite old but for those of us who have gone beyond forty-six, forty-six is very young indeed. Very, very young indeed for such a tremendous task. He was given some sixteen months in which to achieve this task and yet his summing up of the situation was so swift, he said very quickly it must be done in very much shorter time and did it in five months. This can only have been completed through his dominant personality, wise judgement, exceptional power of decision, and perhaps above all, his understanding of human nature.

India gained her independence gloriously. Lord and Lady Mountbatten gave the love and affection of the people of India and all of the peoples of India and Great Britain knew that a new and eternal bond of friendship had been formed between them and we feel that trend today. I feel it especially that there is just something special between Mrs Gandhi and myself and that is special. Not only her delightful personality but a part of the history and friendship and welcome that is India. [end p2]

Lord Mountbatten retained his very close links with India until his tragic and terrible death. An event which sent a shock wave around the world but nothing could dim his tremendous achievements for all people. We honour him today, not only for his distinguished service in India but for other things too. He was a wonderful leader in Her Majesty's forces with its unique discipline, its sense of comradeship and capacity to work together in danger. He also, as I knew very much when I was Secretary of State for Education, had a great sense of working for the future and his constant, constant interest was in young people and especially forging young leaders for the future. Because one needs leadership not only from the top—which he showed us—but one needs leadership throughout every community and at every level and just as no victory could be won by a General himself unless he had leadership at all levels in his army, so the victories of peace can only be won by exerting and encouraging leadership at all levels throughout every community the world over.

And so he started the Atlantic College where he brought together young pupils from all nations so that he would know that there was a whole generation of young people, from all different backgrounds, all different countries, all different races, religions, nationalities, working for the peace of the world and for the future welfare of all its people. He was determined that the efforts of idealism could triumph over the fanatical evils that are ever-present in our society. And that too really is what the Bhavan stands for. And so really there is no accident that Lord Mountbatten was Patron-in-Chief of this Bhavan.

You have spelled out the ideals of the Bhavan. They are that the world is one family—and may I therefore say in that connection, even more one family now. With television we sometimes know what is going on across the world more quickly than what is going on in our neighbour's house or in the street in which we live. [end p3]

But yes, the world is one family. I regard the cultural richness brought by those who settle here as a dowry of great value for this country. We British have a long tradition of open-mindedness. We neither expect nor want people to abandon deeply held religious and cultural traditions. On the contrary we hope that they will cherish the cultural and religious values of their forefathers. This is the right for which our ancestors and yours fought hard and which we all hold dear. So yes, the world is one family.

And your second belief—may all people be happy. Like the advice which Lord Mountbatten 's mother gave, you do not necessarily find happiness by seeking it. But you find it by doing the things which have to be done, which should be done in pursuit of those moral values which form part of our everyday life and in that sense everyone can achieve great happiness.

And then the third one—let their be universal welfare and prosperity. How wonderful it would be if there were. I used to think when I first came into politics the politicians really had a number of clearly defined tasks. One was to bring good health to people. The second was to introduce education and learning, very similar to the Bhavan. And if we did that and also relieved poverty and had reasonable prosperity with health, with education and with reasonable prosperity, the problems of the world would be solved. Because everyone would be happy and they would do the right thing.

Alas, it takes a good deal more than that. When you have done all those things you are up against the problems of human nature and you do not achieve that peace, welfare and prosperity unless in fact you practice those moral values which the Bhavan preaches. [end p4]

The fundamental elements in all cultures transcends race, religious differences and nationality. There are some fundamental values which transcend all those things and that is what the Bhavan stands for.

I thought I might just say one or two more things about our future. It is in our hands. Not only in the hands of the United Nations, the non-aligned countries, NATO, the Governments of many many peoples, it is in our hands—each and every one of us. Because no theory, no legislation, no system of government, no social reform, no amount of money can save us in spite of ourselves because every law, every plan, every decision has to be implemented by people like us who are fallible individuals, but many of us determined after Lord Mountbatten 's example that our ideals should triumph over the forces of evil.

And so may I return to say that it is an honour, a privilege and a pleasure to name this hall after our great hero, Lord Mountbatten, the Mountbatten Hall. The man who was a hero of our time but who in the words of his own speeches had time only to look forward. In looking forward today I name this Hall the Mountbatten Hall.