Thatcher, who died Monday at 87, shared her perspective with local leaders almost 14 years ago during the Cobb County Prayer Breakfast.
As part of the National Day of Prayer, Thatcher gave an emotional speech to a crowd of more than 1,750 about the role of morality in modern society.
Speaking just a few weeks after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, Thatcher said, “The most difficult problems of our time and for our future are the moral questions about how to deal sometimes with monstrous evil internally and how to deal also with terrible criminal behavior, sometimes locally, of a kind we thought never to see in our country, or in any civilized society. We have had it, as well as you.”
Thatcher’s arrival in Cobb County was the result of efforts by prayer breakfast organizers a year earlier to continue a tradition of high-profile speakers at the event.
“That was the biggest crowd we ever had,” said Joe Daniell, executive vice president of Vinings Bank and one of the event’s organizers, of Thatcher’s appearance.
Daniell said he had seen Thatcher on a national speakers tour, and organizers thought she would be a good keynote speaker for the Cobb event.
“We had heard she was reared in a small town in England and her father was a minister,” Daniell said. “We just thought, why not ask, you never know. You never know until you ask and do a little planning.”
Fortunately, Newt Gingrich, a former Cobb resident and U.S. Speaker of the House, had worked closely with Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979 through 1990.
And Gingrich, after sitting down with Cobb officials, agreed to hand-carry invitation letter to her.
While a scheduling conflict prevented Thatcher from coming to Cobb in 1998, a year later she surprised the event organizers by agreeing to come to the May 6, 1999, breakfast at the Cobb Galleria.
“We had to do two things,” Daniell said. “She had to have a Scotland Yard-approved flight, and she wanted to have Newt Gingrich introduce her.”
With those two requirements met, Thatcher came to the event without charging a speaking fee.
The response to her attendance was overwhelming, Daniell said.
“We had to turn people away,” he said. “We had all kinds of requests.”
Thatcher spoke for about 40 minutes about problems with morality in Britain and the U.S. The Columbine shootings had been the previous month, and a recent killing of a 2-year-old in Britain by a couple of 10-year-olds was weighing on Thatcher’s comments.
“What it says to us is the normal human feeling each of us has isn’t there in some of these children,” Thatcher told the crowd.
The former prime minister told those gathered that a breakdown of marriage and family contributed to the violence.
“In all my political life … the one thing you can never do without in a free society is a rule of law honorably and justly administered,” Thatcher said.
Daniell said the power of Thatcher’s speech came from the straightforward nature of her words.
“Margaret Thatcher was very simple with her words,” he said. “If your 8 or 10 year old child were sitting there, they would understand what she said.”