Margaret Thatcher makes time for Larry Bassham

In the course of his career at Aerojet, Larry Bassham met a lot of important people, including Ronald Reagan, who only ate pie at lunch.

His favorite such story is the April 2, 1990, briefing to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who hates formal presentations, preferring to talk to the presenter across a table.

Bassham and his fellow presenters manned six tables. Their goal was to buy British cooperation in the Strategic Defense Initiative which Reagan famously launched in 1984.

Thatcher’s entourage arrived. Six aids stood behind her at an angle that allowed whispered communications to ebb and flow — the most important bubbling up to the prime minister, who stood face to face across the table from Bassham.

After his presentation began a uniformed courier entered the room and whispered to the back of the line. Bassham watched as the message rolled up to Thatcher, who replied, “Tell him I’ll call him right back. I’m in the middle of an important presentation.”

She apologized for the interruption, and let Bassham finish the briefing. Following a couple more such briefings, the courier returned and the cascading whisper again ripples up to Thatcher was repeated. The caller couldn’t wait any longer.

She took the call from President George H. W. Bush. He informed her Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait. She shared the news with the presenters, who were among the first civilians to learn of the invasion.

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