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Founders’ Friday: How to be an Iron Lady

Tonight while sorting through some emails I watched Meryl Streep pwn noobs as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Wow. I can’t get over how completely Ms. Streep embodied Thatcher. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t actually her. I’m old enough to remember seeing Thatcher on TV and despising her politics. I still think she had a pretty harsh approach to governance. But you can’t help admiring her all the same, and the film does a good job of presenting a vulnerable, human side to a political figure famous for her rigidity.

And I do think there are some good lessons here for anyone who wants to rule the world!

1. “I cannot die washing up a teacup.” A young Miss Robertson tells her future husband that she’s not the type to just hang on a man’s arm and look pretty; nor will she be consigned to washing-up duties in the kitchen. I love this because it says two things: be who you are and embrace that your life has the meaning you want to give it; and, find the partner who will respect, honor, and love that about you.

2. “If you want to change the party, lead it. If you want to change this country, lead it.” In the film she is exhorted by friend and colleague Airey Neave to assume command of the party when she expresses dissatisfaction with its direction. The best way to see the changes you want to see wrought in the world is to take leadership and make them happen.

3. “I may be persuaded to surrender the hat. The pearls, however, are absolutely non-negotiable.” I loved this. There are certain concessions one might be induced to make for social or political reasons. But Thatcher’s pearls — a gift from her husband commemorating the birth of her twins — are non-negotiable and become part of her core identity. Keep the authentic parts of you that make you who you are.

It’s a good film, and it’s always inspiring to see an outsider take the reins in such a dramatic way. No one can deny that Thatcher was a remarkable force, with steely intelligence married to an iron will. I wouldn’t have thought she’d be a role model, but you really have to hand it to her — she ruled.


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