Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Message to Chapman University Conference (on Thatcherism)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Source: Thatcher MSS
Editorial comments: The message was shown at the Gala Dinner to which MT was due to have spoken before her illness. James Baker replaced her as keynote speaker.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 587 words
Themes: Conservatism, Foreign policy (USA), Labour Party & socialism


I am sorry that I’m not able to join you. Naturally, though, I am delighted and flattered that Chapman University is holding this Conference. And I promise to remain so – even if I don’t agree with all your conclusions!

Whatever your politics, the 1980s were certainly exciting years, both in Britain and around the world. They marked a turning point. And it remains my firm conviction that it was a turn for the best.

In my own country during the Seventies, many had come to accept that Britain was in terminal decline. The only question was how should decline be managed to make it less painful. Britain was viewed as the “sick man of Europe” – a nation that had lost faith in itself. Collectivism was dominant, even though its failings were acknowledged.

Globally, the Soviet Union gave every sign of winning the Cold War. And anyone who tells you otherwise has a conveniently short memory.

I count myself fortunate that shortly after I came to office, you elected one of America’s most outstanding Presidents – Ronald Reagan. We were a great partnership. Like me, Ron believed that the world’s problems usually stem not from individuals exercising too much freedom, but from the state exercising too much control. The fundamental role of government in a free society is to create a framework where the talents and abilities of the people can flourish.

I remember once comparing this framework with another frame – the one which surrounds a picture. You need that frame, certainly: but it mustn’t over-shadow the painting itself - for that’s where the true worth really lies.

I know that in the coming days you and your guests will be examining many of the great issues which were debated in the Eighties. Some, you may think, are firmly rooted in the circumstances of the day. But others, I hope you agree, are of timeless relevance, and may act as a guide for future generations.

For as the poet Goethe once wrote:

“That which thy fathers bequethed thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it”.

My friends, I hope you have a stimulating and enjoyable conference.