Last updated: April 09. 2013 10:46PM - 775 Views

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The modern era has produced only a handful of larger-than-life political figures. Fewer still attained that status after breaking ethnic, racial or gender barriers.

Among them is Margaret Thatcher, who died in London Monday from a stroke. She was 87.

Thatcher rose from the daughter of a grocer to become a chemist, a tax lawyer, a member of Parliament, education minister and, finally, Britain’s first (and only) female prime minister at a crucial moment in world history.

Together, she and her friend Ronald Reagan steered the world’s leading democracies through the tumultuous 1980s.

The Iron Lady — a moniker first written in a Soviet propaganda publication — led her nation through a war with Argentina, the bloody conflict in Northern Ireland and economic upheaval in Britain.

As with nearly any strong-willed leader, she made enemies along the way, in part for her uncompromising positions.

In a 1980 speech she said, “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the ‘U’ turn, I have only one thing to say. ‘You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.’”

A decade later, commenting on ideas for European unity to the House of Commons, Thatcher famously declared, “No. No. No.” Today, her trepidation about unity is seen by some as prescience.

History will dutifully record the criticism of her policies. Unions especially will seethe over her hard line with organized labor, but that will be a footnote.

The dominant theme will be the Iron Lady’s strength of conviction, devotion to liberty and love of country.

The Orlando Sentinel

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