Famous Eulogies: Margaret Thatcher on Ronald Reagan

Some eulogies provide a profoundly meaningful, lasting tribute to the deceased

Couple cuts wedding cake
Future U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his new bride, Nancy, cut their wedding cake on March 4, 1952, in Toluca Lake, California. Photo © U.S. National Archives

Ideally, a well-crafted and -delivered eulogy illuminates and elucidates special qualities about the deceased that enhance the existing emotional and spiritual connections between the person who died and the living, thereby focusing and increasing a listener's appreciation of the life lost. In some cases, the eulogy itself proves a memorable and meaningful embodiment of both the unique nature of the departed and the depth of feeling that endures in the hearts and minds of those who remain.

This article presents the (partial*) text of just such an enduring remembrance speech: the eulogy delivered by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for former President Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004, in the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

After serving two terms as U.S. president (1980-88), Reagan left office and retired to his ranch in Santa Barbara, California. In late 1994, the former president publicly informed the world that he suffered from Alzheimer's disease, a neurological disorder that progressively causes memory loss and impairs judgment and communication. Ten years later, President Reagan died at home on June 5, 2004, at age 93. Among several eulogies given by world leaders during Reagan's funeral less than a week later, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher delivered the following heartfelt eulogy of her friend and greatest political ally via video transmission.

* Author's note: The text below offers excerpts from Prime Minister Thatcher's moving-but-lengthy eulogy. Links to the full eulogy text and a full video are provided at the end of this article.

The Eulogy of President Ronald Reagan by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
June 11, 2004

We have lost a great president, a great American and a great man, and I have lost a dear friend.

In his lifetime, Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world and to free the slaves of communism. These were causes hard to accomplish and heavy with risk, yet they were pursued with almost a lightness of spirit, for Ronald Reagan also embodied another great cause -- what Arnold Bennett once called "the great cause of cheering us all up." His politics had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation and, ultimately, from the very heart of the "evil empire."

Yet his humor often had a purpose beyond humor. In the terrible hours after the attempt on his life, his easy jokes gave reassurance to an anxious world. They were evidence that, in the aftermath of terror and in the midst of hysteria, one great heart at least remained sane and jocular. They were truly grace under pressure.

And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper kind.

Ronnie himself certainly believed that he had been given back his life for a purpose. As he told a priest after his recovery, "Whatever time I've got left now belongs to the big fella upstairs."

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As prime minister, I worked closely with Ronald Reagan for eight of the most important years of all our lives. We talked regularly, both before and after his presidency, and I've had time and cause to reflect on what made him a great president: Ronald Reagan knew his own mind.

He had firm principles and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly. He acted upon them decisively. When the world threw problems at the White House, he was not baffled or disorientated or overwhelmed. He knew almost instinctively what to do.

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Ronald Reagan's life was rich, not only in public achievement, but also in private happiness. Indeed, his public achievements were rooted in his private happiness. The great turning point of his life was his meeting and marriage with Nancy. On that, we have the plain testimony of a loving and grateful husband: "Nancy came along and saved my soul."

We share her grief today, but we also share her pride, and the grief and pride of Ronnie's children. For the final years of his life, Ronnie's mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted. He is himself again -- more himself than at any time on this earth, for we may be sure that the "Big Fellow upstairs" never forgets those who remember him. And as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven's morning broke, I like to think, in the words of Bunyan, that "all the trumpets sounded on the other side."

We here still move in twilight, but we have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had. We have his example. Let us give thanks today for a life that achieved so much for all of God's children.

Related Information of Interest:
VIDEO: Margaret Thatcher's Eulogy of Ronald Reagan
Read Margaret Thatcher's Entire Eulogy of Ronald Reagan
• Ronald Reagan's Biography
The Dying Words of America's Presidents
5 Tips for Writing a Successful Eulogy
How To Write a Eulogy or Remembrance Speech

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