And now the last of them is gone. Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II—three who won the Cold War and, it isn't too much to say, saved the West (at least for a while!)—are no longer with us. Their examples remain.
They knew what they believed but also knew they had to justify their beliefs, and that one could adjust prudently to circumstances without yielding on principle. They stood firm when in power, and they took risks to get there, challenging the conventional wisdom and the respective establishments of their nations or institutions. They were conservative but not nostalgic, and would counsel us today against excessive nostalgia for their deeds and their days. They would rather, I suspect, urge that we act in their spirit—what one might call a spirit of unapologetic but reformist conservatism.
Whittaker Chambers wrote at the end of his last letter to Bill Buckley, “Each age finds its own language for an eternal meaning.” So each age has to find its own leaders for an eternal task—the defense and renewal of civilization. The death of Margaret Thatcher is a healthy reminder to students of politics of the difficulty, the gravity, and also the nobility of this task.