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Obama on Thatcher: ‘A true friend’ of U.S., example for women

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
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Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher meets with President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985. …

President Barack Obama on Monday mourned the passing of British former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, saying in a statement, “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.

"As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered."

He added, “Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will."

Obama led a chorus of American politicians—mostly conservatives, but several notable Democrats—expressing sorrow at the death of the “Iron Lady.” Republican House Speaker John Boehner offered condolences on behalf of the House of Representatives: Thatcher “stared down elites, union bosses, and communists to win three consecutive elections, establish conservative principles in Western Europe, and bring down the Iron Curtain."

“There was no secret to her values—hard work and personal responsibility—and no nonsense at all in her leadership,” Boehner said in a statement.

Thatcher “reshaped Britain from the state of economic and social turmoil in which she found it to a place of opportunity and promise during three terms in office,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The Kentucky lawmaker also praised Thatcher as “an iconic symbol of the transformative power of conservative ideas,” a “trusted partner” of Reagan and someone who “never hesitated to remind Americans of their own obligations to the cause of freedom and of the need for political courage and confidence in the face of long odds." She “set a standard of leadership that will be hard to replicate, but which will forever stand as a model for those who wish to change society for the better,” McConnell said.

Thatcher’s critics on the left often accused her of dismantling the social safety net even as she privatized previously state-run industry. But top Democrats muted those complaints and delivered sunny tributes to Britain's first woman prime minister.

“Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a commanding political figure, a leader of uncompromising strength, and a public servant who never failed to break down barriers," Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "As the first woman—and longest-serving—British prime minister, she possessed a singular resilience that commanded the respect of her colleagues, the attention of a nation, and the awe of women and men across the world."

Pelosi praised Thatcher as "a relentless force and a steady hand" in the Cold War and someone who "led her country with poise, grace, and an unmistakable iron will that will forever stand as a true testament to her unwavering commitment to public service."

Former President Bill Clinton, who was famously close to the Labour Party's Tony Blair when they were both in office, said in a statement that he was "saddened" by the Conservative leader's death. She was "an iconic stateswoman, and a fearless leader," he said, and "the United States has lost one of its dearest friends and most valued allies."

Clinton added, "Like so many others, I respected the conviction and self-determination she displayed throughout her remarkable life as she broke barriers, defied expectations, and led her country. Hillary, Chelsea, and I extend our condolences to her family and to the people of the United Kingdom."

Here is Obama’s full statement:

With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend. As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise.

Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will. Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Thatcher family and all the British people as we carry on the work to which she dedicated her life—free peoples standing together, determined to write our own destiny.

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