But if he wasn’t listening to history, maybe it wasn’t listening to him. And that’s too bad. Perhaps no one truly attains greatness by believing “it is in me.” Everyone who eventually gets there reaches it in surprise.
What made Margaret Thatcher noteworthy will not lie with her in the coffin, either to praise or — as is almost as certain — for her enemies to revile. The essence of her accomplishment was external to her. She only gave it a medium; a voice. Ronald Reagan perhaps put it best when he said: “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Thatcher ends her long life, the last of the three, at a moment when everyone is out of credit, or rather living on it. She passes in an uncertain hour, the story of her life and times a pointed reminder of how far we have fallen from those days. Yet if we understand her life aright, the principal lesson is that the ordinary is extraordinary. The world is not made by the Great and the Good. Rather it is made by ordinary folk striving to be better. Therefore the greatest aspiration of a statesman was to represent what we were — and still could be.
And that was how she — how they — changed the world. Not through their power, but through ours. Godspeed then, Mrs. Thatcher, but not goodbye. We should be unfaithful to imagine that what truly endures can ever be permanently buried, by time, forgetfulness, or monstrous tyranny. The wave lives, though it breaks upon the shore.