Six months after Margaret Thatcher's death, admirers of the United Kingdom's only female prime minister are planning a memorial unlike any ever given a British politician: a memorial library similar to those in the United States that honor American presidents.
Thatcher, who would have turned 88 on Sunday, remains a highly controversial figure in and outside her country. Mourned by millions throughout the world for her unyielding conservatism while prime minister from 1979 to 1990, Lady Thatcher was also both respected and reviled for her embrace of free-market economics and her hardline stand against Communism during the Cold War.
"Our vision of a library is not about proselytizing Lady Thatcher or about conservatism," Conor Burns, Conservative member of the British parliament and the prime mover behind the Thatcher Library, told Newsmax. "This will be about the experiences that framed her philosophy and, as Lady Thatcher said, 'politics at its purest is philosophy in action.'"
The concept of a "Margaret Thatcher Library" is unique among the British. Although the papers and correspondence of prime ministers are eventually made available to the public, no prime minister — not Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, or Tony Blair — has had a library akin to that of U.S. presidents.
Burns, a proud "Thatcher Baby" in the modern Conservative Party, was in the United States to generate interest and raise money for the proposed library. Among the groups he has addressed about the project are the Young Americans for Freedom and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Much like the Ronald Reagan Library in Southern California, Burns said, "the Thatcher library will have two elements: a visitor center, which highlights her life, and an education center. Much like President Reagan's center, this will highlight the era in which Lady Thatcher led Britain and was a major figure on the international stage and it will show just what she did."
But, he emphasized, "We are more interested in the future, not the past. Lady Thatcher used to say, "It's not important what you have done but what you're going to do next."
Her leadership on the economic front, in the Cold War, and her later skepticism of the European Community "will inspire future generations in the issues the young men and women of tomorrow must deal with."
Like many Thatcherites, Burns made no secret of his dismay that no high-level official of the Obama administration represented the president at the Thatcher funeral in April.
"Margaret Thatcher was America's staunch foreign ally in peacetime," Burns told Newsmax. "President Obama diminished his character and insulted the American people by making sure they, through his office, were not represented at her funeral."
Because of Lady Thatcher's love of the House of Commons where she served from 1959 until 1992, Burns and other supporters would like to have the proposed library built in SW1, the same London district where Parliament is located.
To no one's surprise, he added, "this will be funded entirely by private donations."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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