Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick has died. The conservative research group where she had been working in Washington, the American Enterprise Institute, said she died Thursday at the age of 80. Kirkpatrick, a one time Democratic, switched to the Republican Party and became a hero to many in the conservative movement that swept to power under President Ronald Reagan. She put forward the idea that "authoritarian" or right-wing dictatorships can be transformed peacefully into democracies, while "totalitarian" or left-wing communist ones must be overthrown. Her writings and work were central to the Cold War policies of the 1980s. The first American woman appointed to the U.N. post, Kirkpatrick was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1985. The citation for the civilian honor noted her work as "an endlessly articulate spokeswoman for the benefits of freedom, and a tireless defender of the decency of the West."