By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Contrary to her public image as the tough-as-nails “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher was a “kind and gentle lady,” according to New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who met the former British prime minister several years ago.
“I met her in Manhattan at an event where she was speaking. It was a brief meeting. But I was able to talk to her and thank her for all that she did for the world. My impression of her was that she was a kind and gentle lady,” Long, a Bay Ridge resident, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle shortly after the news broke on April 8 that Thatcher had died.
Thatcher, who was the leader of the Conservative Party in Great Britain during the height of her power, was hailed by Brooklyn Conservatives as a trail blazer, a steadfast ally to the US, and a strong political leader.
“She was the face of the Conservative movement,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said. Thatcher stood for “less taxes, less government intervention and freedom and opportunity for everyone,” Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis also felt a personal connection to the first female prime minister in Great Britain. “She was in power in the 1980s. I’m a 80s child. I grew up in the 80s. Margaret Thatcher as a woman was an inspiration to me. She was a strong woman,” the assemblywoman said.
Jerry Kassar, chairman of the Kings County Conservative Party, called Thatcher, “a great friend to the US,” by forging a close working relationship with then-president Ronald Reagan.
“She pushed common sense ideas at an important time. I think her tenure will be judged by history to be a positive time. There was a growth of democracy in the world,” Kassar said.
Long said he admired Thatcher’s strength of character. “She was steadfast in her belief system. She was true to her beliefs,” he said.
Thatcher was also “an important symbol to the free world,” according to Long, who recalled how she worked with Reagan to stand strong against the former Soviet Union and then joined with the American president to ease the way for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ease restriction in that country to pave the way for the fall of Communism. “She clearly helped Reagan bring down the Iron Curtain,” he said.
Liam McCabe, president of the Brooklyn South Conservative Club, said Thatcher was the right leader for the times. “She really came along at the right time. She was bold, courageous. England needed that at the time,” he said.
Like Long, McCabe praised Thatcher’s role in the fall of Communism. “She was one of the great figures, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, who defeated Communism. Future generations will see that. We’d be in a much different world today if she did not come along when she did,” he said.
Christine Sisto, the Brooklyn South club’s treasurer, saw Thatcher as a role model. “She was always a personal inspiration to me. I think people will look back at her time in office positively,” she said.
Sisto pointed out that Thatcher served as prime minister for 11 years. “I think her longevity is her greatest legacy. The first time people voted for her might have been because she was a woman and it was a novelty. But she was re-elected. People agreed with her policies. The fact that she lasted as long as she did was amazing. Most leaders don’t last that long,” she said.