|AP file photo|
It was with great sadness that I drove to work today. Like a lot of writers, I have a wish list of people who I would love to interview. Margaret Thatcher, 87, who died this morning following a stroke, was one of them.
She was the most dominant British prime minister since Winston Churchill (imagine what it would have been like chatting with him) and a global champion of the late 20th century free market economic revival. As the United Kingdom's first female prime minister - elected on May 3, 1979 – she also was a role model.
“This is a sad day for economic freedom,” said Lydia Miljan, arts and science program chair and associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, Ont., who met Thatcher on two occasions. “The first time was 20 years ago just after she left politics. I was with the Fraser Institute (think tank in Canada) at the time and we hosted her for a speech in Toronto. She was very formidable. She had been very well prepared to discuss Canadian issues. I believe that she had read all the Institute's materials and was ready to debate key points with our Executive Director. She was also very generous, signing her books for all attendees and agreeing to be photographed with the staff.”
A few years later Miljan met Thatcher at another event in Vancouver where Thatcher did a Q&A for the audience. “She was very insightful and had not lost any of her intellectual acumen,” Miljan said.
Her appointment was no fluke, either. She won a second and a third term - becoming Britain's longest continually serving prime minister of the 20th century.
Then there are her achievements during the Cold War era.
As the Telegraph reported this morning, "The Iron Lady proved a significant cold war ally of U.S. president Ronald Reagan in the final showdown with the Soviet Union, which broke up under reformist pressures led by Mikhail Gorbachev, a Kremlin leader with whom Thatcher famously declared she could 'do business.'"
Had I been given the chance to chat with Lady Thatcher over a hot cup of Lady Grey, I would liked to have discussed a few of these milestones from her life and career:
- Born Oct. 13, 1925 in Grantham, central England. What was it like for her growing up? Who encouraged her to speak up and take an interest in the world around her?
- Graduated from Oxford University with a chemistry degree in June 1947. Why chemistry? What changed her mind about following her passion for science?
- Dec. 13, 1951, she married the love of her life, Denis Thatcher. *** She and the wealthy oil executive were together more than 50 years. Sir Denis Thatcher died June 26, 2003.
- Becomes a lawyer, June 1, 1954.
- Elected to Parliament: Oct. 8, 1959.
- Takes position of education secretary: June 20, 1970.
- She and Denis become parents to twins, Mark and Carol, Aug. 15, 1953. How chaotic was that? Did she struggle with the choices of staying home or heading to the political hill?
- Chosen to be the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, Feb. 11, 1975.
- Wins the national election to become Britain's first lady prime minister, May 3, 1979.
- June 9, 1983: Wins second term.
- June 11, 1987: Wins third term.
- Makes history as Britain's longest continuously serving prime minister of the 20th century, Jan. 3, 1988.
- Nov. 22, 1990: Lady Thatcher announces her resignation -- after being overthrown by an internal Tory party coup and rioting in Trafalgar Square induced by her promotion of the poll tax.
- Six days later: John Major becomes Britain's Prime Minister. What did she think of Major?
- June 26, 1992: She becomes Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, and a member of the unelected House of Lords with a lifetime title.
- March 22, 2002: After suffering a series of small strokes, she retires from public speaking.
- April 8, 1913, Lady Thatcher dies of a stroke, 10 years after her husband.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.