October 13 ~  Middle of the Road Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World

"Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by traffic from both sides." ~ Margaret Thatcher

Born on this day, a grocer's daughter from the small town of Grantham, England, Margaret Hilda Thatcher (1925-2013) first worked as a research chemist and attorney specializing in tax law. Leading the Conservative Party, she became Great Britain's first woman Prime Minister in 1979 and served for 11 years.

"If you just set out to be liked," she said, "you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."

Nicknamed "the Iron Lady" for her conservative political philosophy, she was considered one of the most powerful women in the world. "Nothing subtle about her personality or her approach," described Time magazine. "She combined a flamboyant willpower with evident femininity."

A no-nonsense leader with high expectations, Thatcher once explained, "I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near."

Her accomplishments included the dismantling of Great Britain's postwar welfare state and privatization of its industry. She slashed inflation from 22% to 4%, and reshaped British taxation policies.

French leader François Mitterrand said he thought Thatcher had "the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe." And Ronald Reagan described her as "a staunch ally, my political soul mate, a great visionary and a dear, dear friend."

More THATCHER Quotations

Get out of the middle of the road.