Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the Atlantic Bridge

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: St Regis Hotel, New York City
Source: Thatcher Archive
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 998 words
Themes: Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Terrorism



It is a great pleasure to come and support this splendid organisation, which serves such a vital purpose. I needed no persuading. No cause is dearer to me than that of forging a still closer alliance between the English speaking peoples, to whom the world already owes so much.

New York, New York

My friends, it is always exhilarating to visit New York. But nowadays it is also ennobling.

This was the city which terrorists hated so much that they sought to tear out its very heart. But that heart still beats - proudly, strongly, passionately.

Out of the ashes, from amid the tears, New Yorkers are once again rebuilding their City and their lives. Truly they are an inspiration to the world.

And so, indeed, is America under the leadership of President George W. Bush.

Benefits of Victory

I am proud that Britain stood by America in this conflict. Our own Prime Minister was staunch; and our forces were superb. But, above all, it is President Bush who deserves the credit for victory. First in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, the forces of tyranny and darkness have been routed.

These victories have made our nations and our allies more secure. They have shown all who are tempted to do us harm that they will have to pay the price of their actions. Yes: the world remains dangerous. But it is yesterday's weakness, not today's resolve, which is to blame for the risks we face.

For years, many governments played down the threats of Islamic revolution, turned a blind eye to international terrorism, and accepted the development of weaponry of mass destruction by dictators. Indeed, some politicians were happy to go further, collaborating with the self-proclaimed enemies of the West for their own short-term gain - but enough about the French!

So deep had the rot set in, that the UN Security Council itself was paralysed. Had America and Britain not halted the descent into global anarchy, every peaceful nation, every democratic institution, would have been threatened. That is the greatest lesson we can draw from what has occurred. And it must never be forgotten.

The Battle of Ideas

My friends, every generation has to fight anew the battle for liberty. In my generation, Nazism and then Communism were the enemy, and they very nearly prevailed. Then, as now, strong arms and stout hearts were called upon to sustain the struggle for truth and right.

But just as important, if less heroic, is the role of ideas.

People were often struck by how closely President Reagan and I could work together. But there was no secret about why it was so. Before coming to power, each of us had drunk deep from the same well of ideas. Because of that, we knew where we stood; we could stand firm; and we also knew that we would stand together.

We weren't what are sometimes called pragmatists. We used that old-fashioned short cut to the right results, which consists of right principles. We didn't need to ask ourselves those endless questions about “What Works?”. We knew what worked. Small government. Low taxes. Sound money. Private property. Enterprise. They are what worked - and they always work.

We knew too what didn't work - namely, socialism in every shape or form. And how many forms there are! Socialism is like one of those horrible viruses. You no sooner discover a remedy for one version, than it spontaneously evolves into another. In the past, there was nationalisation, penal taxation and the command economy. Nowadays socialism is more often dressed up as environmentalism, feminism, or international concern for human rights. All sound good in the abstract. But scratch the surface and you'll as likely as not discover anti-capitalism, patronising and distorting quotas, and intrusions upon the sovereignty and democracy of nations. New slogans: old errors.

Ronald Reagan and I didn't need persuading, either, that ideas like democracy, law, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, were more than just another “option”. These things aren’t a mere Western construct, which we shouldn’t be exporting because the locals might misuse them. They are the birthright of the human race.

So I am glad that freedom is on the march again. But there is still in our own countries, particularly in the media class, a pervasive culture of puerile anti-westernism that needs to be changed. There are too many people who imagine that there is something sophisticated about always believing the best of those who hate your country, and the worst of those who defend it. Self-doubt can on occasion be attractive; self-criticism may sometimes be necessary; but self-loathing is a sure-fire guarantee of a nervous breakdown.

America, Britain and our allies have, therefore, the resources to prevail. But our governments will only have the will to do so if we conservatives challenge false argument, and determinedly resist what Solzhenitzyn once called the “censorship of fashion”.

The Right Bridge

Renewing and strengthening the bonds between conservatives from our two nations is part of this: and it is a noble and necessary enterprise. This Atlantic Bridge must connect the brightest minds, the soundest ideas, and the boldest young leaders of the future. It should serve at once as a memorial to our heritage, as an investment in our prospects, and as a bulwark against the good - and not so good - people on the Left, who always turn out to have such very bad ideas.

But remember: bridges have to be defended - like that other Bridge across the river Tiber in Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome. You may recall the challenge of Horatius:

In yon strait path a thousand

May well be stopped by three.

Now who will stand on either hand,

And keep the bridge with me?

Well, my friends, the presence of so many fine conservatives here tonight proclaims that there will be more - and many more - than three to fight this battle.