Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to International Democrat Union

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text (THCR 5/1/4/100 f3)
Editorial comments: The dinner began at 2000. a section of the text has been checked against BBC Radio News Report 0700 26 July 1985 (see editorial notes in text).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1262
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Media

George BushVice-President, Prime Ministers, Your Excellencies ladies and gentlemen.

Let me first thank you, Mr. Vice-President, for being our host at this dinner tonight with your usual charm and distinction. From whatever part of the world we come, from whatever country, whatever continent we all feel that in you we have a particular friend in Washington: — someone who knows our countries, — someone whose unrivalled experience of Government brings an instinctive and sympathetic understanding to our problems, — someone who shares and—more importantly—fights for our ideals.

It is of course a great sadness that Ronald Reaganthe President could not be with us. [end p1] I know that he would not easily be kept away from this first meeting of our International Democratic Union in the United States. But nothing is more important than that he should continue his phenomenal recovery and come back fitter and stronger than ever to give us his leadership. Our message to him and to the First Lady is: “You have all our affection and best wishes”. And, if I may exploit one of an old actor's best know lines: “don't win this one just for the Gipper, Mr. President, win it for all of us”. [end p2]

To hold this Conference in the United States of America is a very special experience for all representatives. Many of us come from countries whose peoples left our shores to come to yours.

Just over 400 years ago, Sir Walter Raleigh helped to found the first English-speaking settlement in the North American continent. For him and his companions, and so many like them, America was a land of liberty and opportunity, a land of new beginnings. It has remained so for 400 years. [end p3]

In that time, people from many countries have followed. Some have sought and found an escape from tyranny. Others, like Raleigh himself, have sought adventure and the chance to make their fortune.

To them all, the United States has extended a warm and generous welcome—a welcome vividly caught by words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
[end p4]

Liberty and Responsibility

The United States is still the land of liberty—but more than that. You have flourished because from your early days liberty has been indissolubly linked with responsibility, with endeavour, with self-reliance.

Nor would you have survived without giving a helping hand to one another, accepting that success brought, not greater privilege, but greater obligations.

These values which we share and admire, you enshrined in that most marvellous expression on Liberty—the Declaration of Independence. [end p5]

We must recall these things and relearn their lessons. One—that those who would enjoy the fruits of liberty must first assume its obligations.

Have we not all heard politicians—not of our own way of thought—conveying the impression that somehow the standard of living comes from Governments and not from personal effort? And that somehow someone else will pay for all the good things for which electors are invited to vote. [end p6]

It was George Bernard Shaw who said:

“Freedom incurs responsibility; that is why so many men fear it.”

And a second lesson we must constantly keep before us is that democracy is about more than the rule of the majority.

It is a recognition and an acceptance that everyone has a basic right to freedom and justice—a right which is God-given and not State-given, a right so fundamental that no mere Government is entitled to take it away.

That is why we are meeting here today—as we talk about contemporary problems against the background of fundamental values. [end p7]

Liberty has brought not only dignity—but prosperity undreamed of by our forefathers. It is that which has enabled the West to bring hope and help to millions of African citizens who have suffered famine.

No shadow of complacency occupies our minds as we dine tonight in the same world. But we are proud to live in a society which can keep food flowing to those striken areas, and proud that our young people used their freedom to raise millions of dollars for humanity.

Tackling famine in the world is a great challenge. So too is the maintenance of peace. [end p8]

The Soviet Union

All of us have very much in mind the importance of the Summit meeting which will take place at the end of November between the President and Mr. Gorbachev. We must not under-estimate the changes which are taking place in the Soviet Union. A younger generation has made its way into the seats of power. A generation that is more highly educated; which has a more sophisticated understanding of the importance of image and presentation. We have seen it in Mr. Gorbachev 's walk-abouts. We have seen it in the greater use of press conferences and briefings—always for highly selected information. [end p9] We have heard talk of economic reform.

These new techniques are bound to be employed this autumn in a massive propaganda offensive aimed at public opinion in our countries. Would that we could get through as easily to theirs. Our peoples will be presented with the alluring prospect of large reductions in nuclear weapons, of a stable peace just round the corner if only …   . If only the United States were to give up the SDI. If only Britain and France were to abandon their nuclear deterrents, even though they are only a tiny proportion of Soviet forces. [end p10] If only we were to accept Soviet proposals which would preserve and guarantee Soviet superiority in numbers. If only in other words we accept the Soviet view and give up our own. It will be our task to keep our people aware of the realities. The reality that the nature of Communism has not changed even if its image has been touched up. The reality that the new brooms in the Soviet Union will not be used to sweep away Communism, only to make it more efficient—if that can be done. The reality that the defence of the West for many years will continue to depend upon deterrence through nuclear weapons. [end p11] The reality that those who are now in leading positions in the Soviet Union have never known anything but Communism. They do not think in any other terms. Their view of the world will remain dominated by their ideology.

But it will not be enough just to warn against siren voices.

We must have a positive approach, firm, clear and constructive proposals of our own—for substantial reductions in nuclear weapons, for a ban on chemical weapons, for increasing East/West contacts—and explaining them to our people in terms which will carry conviction and appeal. [end p12] Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 0700 26 July 1985:

We must show that our commitment to negotiations, our commitment to peace is more honest and more credible than the specious proposals of the other side. End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 0700 26 July 1985:

Our parties, members of the IDU, will have a special responsibility in this. [end p13]


At this Conference we have reasserted our fundamental beliefs.

Today, we can look to the future with confidence. We are winning the battle of ideas.

And the values in which we believe belong to all generations.

As so often Rudyard Kipling has the last word:

“Keep ye the law—be swift in all obedience—Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford. Make ye sure to each his own that he reap where he hath sown; By the peace among our peoples let men know we serve the Lord.”