|JACKSON, TN -- In an address presented at Union University, former
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher challenged Western nations to stay firm in their
support of democratic values in the face of challenges posed by dictators and economic
difficulties around the globe.
"We now know that states, societies and economies which allow the distinctive talents of individuals to flourish, themselves also flourish," Thatcher said. "And those which dwarf, crush, manipulate or ignore those talents cannot progress. It's only western civilization that has discovered this secret of continual progress, because it's only western civilization that has developed a culture in which individuals matter, a society in which private property is secure, which backs up the freedom of the individual, and a political system in which a range of competing views is accommodated."
The twin foundations on which democratic governments are built are religious values and a commitment to the rule of law, according to the former Prime Minister.
Thatcher asserted, "The moral foundation of this system is the Judeo-Christian outlook - the message of the Old and New Testament, that each and every person matters. The system's institutional foundation is the rule of law and parliamentary government. The cause of limited government is one which has endured and is spreading, and is a tribute to our western civilization, to our fundamental beliefs."
Despite the apparent triumph of democratic values, Thatcher insisted that Western governments must be alert to potential challenges from various opponents, from totalitarian dictators to militant Islamic states.
"Fewer than half the world's countries are democracies," she pointed out. "The political conflict between collectivism and freedom is not yet over. We have to fight boldly and persuasively the intellectual and practical battle for freedom as it faces new challenges."
An example of that growing danger is the development of biological and chemical weapons among states like Iraq and the acquisition by "rogue states" of nuclear technology from Russia and North Korea. The result, Thatcher notes, is that, "For the first time in my lifetime, the comparatively small states have enormous force and terror weapons at their disposal, and are far stronger in proportion to their size than any previous generation of small states has been. We have constantly to be on our guard; we have constantly to see that our defenses are always kept strong, and that they are always more advanced technologically of any other nation."
The need for the West to maintain military supremacy in order to protect democratic values is a critical issue, according to Thatcher.
"There's never any lack of potential aggressors," the former Prime Minister stated. "That means we must always, in the West, maintain military superiority over any other nations - not only military superiority in numbers, but as Ronald Reagan knew, military superiority in the most advanced research, translated into the most advanced weaponry, with other countries knowing they could never rival (the West)... That is the only way we can conserve and gradually extend the way of life of liberty and law."
One of several other topics cited by Thatcher was the move to a common European currency, which she called "a wretched idea." Emphasizing that a loss of control of currency leads to a loss of sovereignty, Thatcher noted, "What sort of country is it that gives up control of its own finances to another group? I would have supreme contempt for any Prime Minister who dared give (this) up - after all our history - because if you haven't gotten control over your finances, you haven't gotten control of your actions."
Lady Thatcher led Britain's Conservative Party from 1975 until her resignation as Prime Minister in November 1990. She became the first women to hold the office of Prime Minister and was the first British Prime Minister in this century to occupy the office for three consecutive terms. "We were honored that Lady Thatcher agreed to be our speaker for this event, which is part of the celebration of Union's 175th anniversary in 1998," explains Union President David S. Dockery. "She is one of the key world leaders of the postwar era, and her firm advocacy of conservative political and economic principles has made her an influential leader on both sides of the Atlantic."
A graduate of the University of Oxford, Lady Thatcher worked as a research chemist before studying for the bar and becoming an attorney. She was first elected to the House of Commons in 1959. She led the Conservative Party to electoral victory in 1979, and guided Great Britain to a victorious resolution of the Falklands War with Argentina. Throughout her three terms as Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher opposed the socialist programs of Britain's Labour Party and sought to reduce the role of the government in the nation's economic and social life.
The Union Scholarship Banquet is sponsored by the university's Board of Presidential Associates, an organization whose members support the mission and work of the university. Participation in the 1998 banquet, through sponsorships and individual tickets, provided more than $200,000 in financial support.