Jacinda Ardern will be missed, deserves our praise


Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP

On Jan. 24, 2023, the Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the media in Ratana, New Zealand where she made her final public appearance.

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stepped down as New Zealand’s leader, but she deserves our warm-hearted praise both for her accomplishments in office as well as her final decision. 

Politically active and a member of the New Zealand Labor Party since she was 18, Ardern served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for nearly 10 years before she was elected Prime Minister in 2017 at 37 years old, according to the Council of Women World Leaders

Denying the common claim that empathy in political administrations is a show of weakness, she fought for kindness, feminism, environmental action and the safety of children and families, the cause she first coined as prompting her interest in politics. 

“I want this government to feel different. I want people to feel that it’s open, and that it’s listening, and that it’s going to bring kindness back,” Ardern told New Zealand public broadcast service RNZ, on her way to be sworn in as prime minister. 

However, during her time as prime minister, Ardern faced the inappropriate comments of a misogynistic world. As one of 90 female world leaders in history, Ardern’s role as Prime Minister was often questioned because of her simultaneous role as a woman and mother, a pattern which she actively spoke against

Susan Johnson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and secretary of NIU’s Women and Gender Advocacy Alliance club (WGAA), said she felt unsurprised, yet saddened by the sexism Ardern faced. 

“I think women have had to deal with questions (about motherhood)…for so long and for so many different career fields…I’m disappointed… It’s really unfortunate that women in professional settings still cannot escape these pandering ideas,” Johnson said.

It’s a norm she hopes to see cast away. 

“It’s really unfortunate that this has to be…one of the first questions that women in power have to deal with… I really wish that there could be more professionalism, and there could be a standard code of conduct when discussing in a press conference setting,” Johnson said.

Despite these obstacles, silly as they are to still exist today, Ardern never failed to serve her nation with strength and efficiency. The former Prime Minister served as an advocate for equality between and recognition of all humans. 

Among her accomplishments is the declaration of the Maori New Year, Matariki, as a national holiday, and the passing of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill in July 2020, which gave workers increased bargaining power about issues of pay equity. She also advocated for a carbon-neutral government, was the first Prime Minister to participate in a pride parade and ignited widespread access to period products in schools in New Zealand. 

Yet perhaps most revered during her administration was Ardern’s tenacity in guiding New Zealand through one of the most confusing, panic-stricken and deadly periods of recent history. 

Ardern was a leading global icon for health and safety during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, guiding New Zealand to become one of the most successful countries in combating the virus. 

The list of empathy and effective legislative progress continues, a display of maturity not seen among many of the United States’ own political leaders today. 

On Jan. 19, Ardern announced her resignation. However, in explaining her action, Ardern spoke that her decision to resign was a simple one. 

“I am leaving because with such a privileged role, comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not. I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” said Ardern in her resignation speech.

Johnson reflected that a lesson that could be found in this act may apply to aspiring leaders everywhere, even within NIU’s own communities.

“I think it’s important to remember, to keep in mind, what you can offer to your community and to your clubs and organizations, and to put the organization’s interests first,” Johnson said. 

Once again, former Prime Minister Ardern has done what so many global leaders before her could not; she has admitted her own humanity, remained humble through the end, and failed to fall for the temptation of power which so easily blinds political leaders today. 

For that alone, we must applaud her legacy.