COMMENTARY | It has just been announced that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has passed away. She was the first (and only) female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, though not the only female head of state in that country’s history. But my friends and I in college got to witness first hand why she deserved the nickname “The Iron Lady.”
Roughly a year after she chose not to go for a second round in a Conservative Party leadership battle, Thatcher came to Trinity University. It was the first time I ever had to camp out for a ticket, which provided excellent practice for graduate school and getting seats to a Florida State University-Florida football game. But several of us got one of the coveted spots for the biggest campus speaker in more than a decade.
Our college president seemed nervous in front of the packed audience of San Antonio residents who attended. And it was vintage Thatcher, not the faltering character from the 2011 movie “The Iron Lady”(starring Meryl Streep). She proudly announced that she and Ronald Reagan had won the Cold War, given that the Soviet Union was dissolving before our eyes.
But then came the question-and-answer session. Usually, you had several students and residents who asked questions which were more political statements or speeches designed to make the questioner look smart. A student started to give one of those, going on and on about the oppression of North Ireland.
I’m not sure this particular student knew about the Irish Republican Army bombing at a Conservative Party conference that narrowly missed killing Thatcher but did lead to several deaths. She cut off the questioner and started ripping into him about the IRA, and how little he knew about the situation. Quietly, the student slipped away from the microphone to head to his seat.
When Thatcher finally took her first breath, after what seemed to be 10 minutes, she announced “I know you’ve gone back to your seat, young man, but I’m not through with you yet!” She continued to verbally harangue him until he crawled out of the auditorium. I’ve never seen anyone deal with a critical question quite that way.
Usually, when my friends and I get together to talk about college days, it doesn’t take long for someone to say “Remember when Margaret Thatcher went off on that student who asked the question about North Ireland?”
So go ahead and rest in peace, Margaret Thatcher. You’ve earned your moniker of “The Iron Lady.”
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.