Margaret Thatcher, who died today at 87, was an extraordinary kind of national leader: a person of passionate and unswerving moral and political conviction. She lived her political life not as a career but as a mission. She was from the start an outsider, not just a woman in a nation whose leadership was dominated by men, but the daughter of a grocer. She made her way to the top by sheer energy and talent, studying at Oxford and then rising to the top of Britain’s Conservative party by 1975, when she was 50. She said a couple of years before that that “I don’t think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime.” She proved herself wrong. She was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, and at first she alienated almost everybody. As she cut spending and entitlements, unemployment rose above three million, and by 1981 her approval rating sank to 25%. Her response: “To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catch phrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to . . . the lady’s not for turning.” Wanted: Leaders Like We Used to Have Ron Ashkenas Contributor 20 images Photos: The Most Powerful Women In Politics, 2012 Soon the economy began to improve, and then she boosted Britain’s morale by responding to Argentina ‘s 1982 invasion of the Falklands Islands with swift and decisive military force. She broke the backs of labor unions whose power she felt was suffocating the British economy, and she allowed residents of council homes, public housing, to buy their houses, giving millions a new part in the economy. People loved her or hated her. Her unyielding toughness with IRA hunger strikers alienated many who felt she drove protesters in Ireland to violence. She could be very wrong as well as right: She insisted after the fall of the Berlin Wall that an attempt to unite East and West Germany was doomed to failure. She was, depending on your view, either the triumphant champion or the pitiless enforcer of rough, unfettered capitalism. That is why she was a revolutionary leader. She was all about powerfully held principles. She summed up her philosophy in a 1987 interview: “I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!”; “I am homeless, the government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations.