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Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was the keynote speaker on Sunday night at a benefit dinner for the Jewish National Fund at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel. Since 1901, the fund has been responsible for afforestation and land reclamation for Israel.
During the festivities, real estate visionaries Michael L. Meyer and Henry T. Segerstrom received the agency’s Tree of Life Award for their contributions to the community. Other award recipients have included Vice President Al Gore, American Red Cross Director Elizabeth Dole and Thatcher herself.
Introducing the baroness to a 600-strong black-tie crowd, Sir Eldon Griffiths, the Brit who presides over Orange County’s World Affairs Council, called Thatcher “the woman who restored the United Kingdom’s reputation in the world.”
“She is the one who made Britain the comeback country of the ’80s,” he said, “she is a keeper of the flame . . . a voice of freedom. History, I think, will record that she was the architect of the British Renaissance.”
Thatcher thanked Griffiths for his gracious introduction, and then, laughing, told him it was a joy to come to America to see Brits such as himself enjoying “all of the things we gave you.”
There were times when she was prime minister, she continued, when she would wander through the rooms on 10 Downing Street–“when I was deeply concerned about a decision”–and look at some of the historical pictures on the walls.
“And I would wish to goodness we’d handled things better between 1770 and 1776,” she said, smiling. “If only I’d been here then!”
Then, Thatcher, with passion in her voice, embarked on an address that focused on the crimes that the century has wrought upon personal freedom.
This has been a century where everyone should have made “great leaps forth.”
“Instead,” she continued, “it has spawned the worst two tyrannies the world has ever known–Nazism and Communism.
“These came at a time when science had put much greater power and material into the hands of man,” she said. “During this century, 36 million have lost their lives in battle . . . and under totalitarian regimes, 119 million were murdered–95 million of which were murdered under Communist regimes.”
These tyrannies disregarded the sanctity of the individual, Thatcher said. “They came from a terrible arrogance . . . [intellectuals] saying, ‘We the few can decide everything ! The many have no rights and it doesn’t matter!’ “
Thatcher then recited her credo: “We are all God’s children. Each and everyone matters. Each and every one is different. Each and every one has some contribution to make and the right to make it within a framework of just law. “
On the Scene
Attending were event chairmen Byron Allumbaugh, Donald Beall, Gary Hunt, Les McCraw, Stan Ross and Thomas Sutton. Also among guests were Renee Segerstrom, Nancy Meyer, William and Willa Dean Lyon, George and Judy Argyros, Zee Allred, Gayle Anderson, Arianna and Michael Huffington, Mark Johnson with Wanda Harrell, Marilyn and Tom Nielsen, Ygal and Sheila Prell Sonenshine, and Ron and Joyce Tucker.