'Fight Boldly' for Democracy, Thatcher UrgesFeb. 24, 1999
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said although democracy has spread in the last century, "we have to fight boldly and extend it across the rest of the world" in a University lecture Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Ferrell Center on the Baylor campus.
Lady Thatcher spoke on "Challenges Facing the 21st Century" to a crowd of more than 4,400 Baylor University students, faculty and staff and Central Texas residents. Her lecture dealt with the challenges that Great Britain and the U.S. have overcome in the last century and how the two countries must profit from these experiences to deal with future problems.
"The communists and dictators were all terrible blots on the last century," Lady Thatcher said. "We have had to fight fascism and nazism, but out of 184 nations, only fewer than half are democracies."
Lady Thatcher said the war against communism in the Soviet Union was one of the most important battles Great Britain and the U.S. fought in the 20th century.
"Communism is the most cruel and total elimination of freedom the world has ever known," she said.
However, Lady Thatcher said that the basic human instinct towards humanity and freedom could not be "blotted out" by even the worst tyranny.
"Brave souls couldn't be stopped from preaching the gospel, and Baptists would meet in the woods for service on Sunday mornings," she said. "As communism opened up, they couldn't keep out the truth. Our way has won. Even in the Soviet Union, things began to change."
Lady Thatcher's long-anticipated trip to Baylor also included a 45-minute informal question session with about 60 Baylor student leaders in Baylor's historic Armstrong Browning Library. Her lecture was followed by a dinner reception, also held at the library.
Although Lady Thatcher said she rejoiced at the fall of the iron curtain, she spoke of the problems former communist countries face when trying to form democracies.
"When you are under a tyranny, you are not allowed to make any of your own decisions," she said. "The way [former communist countries] suddenly became free societies without any instructions explains the problems. You can't suddenly bring in a set of laws unless they've grown and been discussed."
As an example of a problem in the Soviet Union, Lady Thatcher talked about a group of Russian lawyers who entreated her to "please ask the government to publish the laws because we don't know what they are."
Another problem Thatcher addressed is the financial situation in Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia, where countries in need receive money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and spend it unwisely.
"A lot of money handed out by the IMF seems to disappear like snow before sunshine," Lady Thatcher said. "We can't have the IMF giving out money without supervision. Countries are not making strenuous efforts to get their affairs in order because they know they will receive money from the IMF."
Lady Thatcher addressed the economic problems in Asia, saying she believes the future of these countries is good because they are a hardworking, family-minded group of people. However, she said that some countries, like China, are hindered by their unwillingness to come to democracy.
"An interesting political experiment has occurred among Chinese people in Hong Kong, which is a free society, and Chinese people in China," she said. "Although these people are all equally very talented indeed, the people in Hong Kong have achieved an average annual income of about $12-15,000 while in China the average is about $800. Once again, this proves out way of life is infinitely best."
With a population of 1.2 billion, Lady Thatcher believes that China could become very powerful if it can gradually become a democracy.
Other important challenges in the 21st century, Lady Thatcher said, are internal problems in the English and American societies. The two greatest problems are crime and the deterioration of the family unit, she said.
"A crime against a person or especially a child is the worst kind of evil and should be dealt with extremely severely indeed," she said.
Lady Thatcher also said that if the undermining of the family unit becomes generally accepted, there will be very serious consequences.
"We need to make everything attractive for young people to marry so that it is not only the best moral choice but also the most logical one," she said. "The moral problems are always the most difficult to get right."
Lady Thatcher gave a very strong opinion on the question of Great Britain joining other European nations to adopt a single currency and eventually a single government.
"We haven't been independent for a thousand years to go into that," she said. "If you give up your currency and your individual taxation, you are not longer in control and you are no longer free. You became a pawn, and we can't have this for Great Britain and that is that."
During the short question and answer session that followed her speech, Lady Thatcher commented on the challenges that women face in politics.
"We've faced all the ones men faced and done very well and had to keep the family running as well," she said.
Lady Thatcher also said that the one individual who has impressed her most is former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
"Ronald Reagan raised the position of America in the eyes of the world," Lady Thatcher said. "He always stuck to the big central important point and never got bogged down in detail. He was a great right-wing politician."
Following the question and answer session, Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. presented Lady Thatcher with a certificate declaring her an Alumna By Choice.