Prince Hisahito, center, accompanied by his parents Prince Akishino, left, and Princess Kiko, arrive at Ochanomizu University Elementary School for his
Prince Hisahito, center, accompanied by his parents Prince Akishino, left, and Princess Kiko, arrive at Ochanomizu University Elementary School for his entrance ceremony in Tokyo on April 7. (Koji Sasahara/AFP/Getty Images)

If ever there was a transformational leader it was Lady Margaret Thatcher.

The first — and, to this point, only — female prime minister of Great Britain died Monday after a stroke at age 87.

In slightly less than 12 years at 10 Downing Street, Thatcher took a nation on the verge of economic collapse and international irrelevance and transformed its approach to finances and helped restore its place on the world stage.

During the '80s and '90s Thatcher was a powerful force both in the British Isles and internationally. Early on, she used a successful staredown with Argentina over a little-known territory called the Falkland Islands to re-establish the image of British military muscle.

Her ideological toughness prompted the Russian media to nickname her the "Iron Lady." Thatcher possessed fervent belief that market-based solutions were far superior to government ones. That kind of thinking was anathema to those who had governed Great Britain for decades before her becoming prime minister in 1979.

It was that Adam Smith-type of economic philosophy that made Thatcher a hero on the political right and a villain on the Keynesian-dominated left.

But like Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt before her, Thatcher was a world leader who believed in her own judgments. She eschewed critics as she focused on restoring the luster of a once-great nation. She had come to power with a commitment to champion private enterprise and to greatly reduce the state's role in the British economic model. She did exactly that.


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When she began as prime minister, Great Britain was well on its way to becoming a welfare state collapsing under its own weight. Thatcher took what were considered radical steps to transform the commonwealth's foundering economy. She worked for significant changes in the tax structure, deregulation and privatization of what were previously state-run industries such as British Telecom, British Gas, Rolls-Royce, British Airways, British Coal, British Steel, the water companies and the electricity distribution system to name a few.

Many of Thatcher's domestic battles raised a fundamental question that still resonates in both Europe and the United States: At what point do government promises overtax an economy so as to destroy initiative and create an unsustainable mountain of debt?

Her political and economic philosophies were often similar to those of former President Ronald Reagan, a contemporary leader whom Thatcher considered a close friend. In fact, there were those in the British press who went so far as to characterize Thatcher's affinity for Reagan as that of a schoolgirl crush.

Whatever the feeling, it is clear that she and her friend "Ronnie" were usually on the same page.

So transformational was Thatcher that Tony Blair would later adopt many of her policies as he reformed the Labour Party on his rise to prime minister.

And many historians contend that it was Thatcher's early gut-level conclusion that the West could "do business with" former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that transformed U.S.-Soviet relations and helped facilitate Reagan's critical diplomatic dance with Gorbachev.

Lady Margaret Thatcher helped transform our world. Her skill and passion will be missed.