Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech receiving International Women’s Forum Award

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Embassy, Washington
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1715. MT was due to leave for Andrews Air Force base at 1820.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 830
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Civil liberties, Foreign policy (USA), Women

Madam Chairman, Ladies,

First may I say how very honoured I am to receive this Award. Politicians here know that a politician's life consists mostly of receiving criticism and knocks and so an Award and a special acclaim is really a very particular bonus and I am very honoured to receive it. It also means a lot to me to join a hall of fame of so many other distinguished women, each of whom in their own many have made their own contribution to the life which we now enjoy. I expect they think, as I sometimes think when people say “Well, how did you do it?” , one tends to think, well, you know, it wasn't suddenly done, it was done by quite a lot of work and by steadily taking advantage of each opportunity as it came. There is just a little quatrain that applies to men and I am sure it applies to women too:

“The heights by great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept,
Were toiling upwards in the night.”

I think that applies to us too. One only gets to the top rung on the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time. And suddenly all sorts of things which you thought at first, all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you, suddenly come within your own possibility and you think, well, I'll have a go too. For me, I wish we had more women using the enormous potential that they have. You know we've had years and years and years of able talented women, very few of them coming into public life and I think both our women politicians would agree today with me when I say—it would be a lot earlier for us if there were more of us so that each one is less conspicuous and each one is no longer viewed as something of [end p1] a peculiarity. And it always seems to me very strange when sometimes one's male colleagues say to me, “My goodness me, you're the best man we've got,” and you don't always take that necessarily as a compliment. If there were more of us coming into public life it would help.

For me, as Prime Minister of Great Britain, it is a special pleasure to be able to cement and renew the traditional relationship between America and my country. We are both English-speaking peoples, that means a lot; we both share a common heritage, a common heritage of love of freedom under a rule of law expressed in Government terms as democracy, and a law which is justice for everyone, a law in which even ordinary citizens can take Governments to courts to establish their rights. That is our inheritance and there will always be something very special between the United States and the United Kingdom. It is there: it was perhaps expressed best of all by Winston Churchill, who, as it were, had a foot in both camps.

As I travel around the world and, indeed, as you do too, you often begin to realise how very privileged we are; how much we take the freedoms for granted—and we shouldn't. Now and then we come across peoples who have never known them. Peoples who have been dissenters in other countries, dissenters in your own country—it's such a strange word, such a strange concept—and yet it's part of our tradition and one which is denied to them. We are very, very fortunate to be free and I have been so proud to be able to talk to President Reagan today to see how we can be certain that we always maintain that freedom for ourselves, for future generations, for the United States, for Europe and that in securing it and in maintaining it we show and give a little sign of hope to others who do not yet have it. [end p2]

Women have a tremendous part to play in the life of the country, in the life of the community and in almost every particular business and profession. May I say that I did meet Sally Ryde—she came over to London to see me. It was such a delight to see her. She had been so thrilled to be the first woman astronaut and I was so thrilled to meet her. I don't know whether she thought the same when she met me as I though when I met her—well, you really are, why, I would call an ordinary woman of extraordinary qualities. And that I think so often when I meet so many women who have made it to the top. They seem so ordinary when you meet them and yet everything they've done has been of such extraordinary quality.

I hope that what you are doing will bring inspiration, ambition to many young women so that they are not satisfied with anything less than giving of their best and of achieving their highest ambition and of going to the very top which I am sure so many of they will. It will give me particular pleasure to have the Eagle at home. It will always remind me of this occasion and we are delighted to have it in the British Embassy, a lovely Embassy—I'm sure that's why you made such special efforts to come today, it is a lovely Embassy.

Thank you for coming such a long way. Thank you for the honour you do me. Thank you for recognising the special link and relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. I will do my level best to see that it always continues and that I do everything possible to help other women to get to the top as I myself was helped in the past.

Thank you.