Britain’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, passed away today at the age of 87. As in her life, her death is sparking strong opinions and controversy. I saw a post by my friend Mike Raye on Facebook which made me think how complicated global issues as well as each of our lives can be – that saying someone is simply “good” or “bad” misses the nuance of what an individual’s life was about. Particularly, when looking at how people in various cultures operate, dismissals and generalizations can be so dangerous.
Mike, a former CNN cameraman, wrote on his Facebook wall:
Sitting in an anteroom inside #10 Downing Street, early 1990, waiting to shoot a photo-op for the U.S. networks pool, a door opens and someone walks in, carrying a silver tea service. “So sorry for the delay; we’re running a bit behind schedule,” one of the most famous voices in the world said. “We shan’t be much longer. Would you like some tea while you wait?” asked Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Completely stunned, I stammered, “Thank you, Madame Prime Minister .” The Iron Lady smiled and said, “Not a ‘tall. Welcome to Number Ten.” My Lebanese sound man, Abed Itani, was speechless.
This anecdote offers a great jumping off point for a discussion with children, probably about age 10 and up. We can discuss how women around the world have taken powerful leadership positions, well before what we’ve seen in the US. But just because a woman is in power, that doesn’t mean she fits neat generalizations about “soft,” “feminine,” “pacifist” leadership styles we might assign to women. A conversation can explore: How did Maggie Thatcher defy that? What were some of her positive (or negative) qualities? What is her legacy in the UK? Why is she still such a controversial figure?
RIP to a trailblazer, whatever your opinion of her…