31.01.23 Today’s Insights from the Wall Street Journal: New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s Recent Resignation
Sometimes, what’s most inspiring about a leader is how she steps down, rather than what precedes her stepping up.
On January 19, Jacinda Ardern, the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand, courgeously announced her upcoming retirement after 5 years in her role. A youthful leader who took the helm of the island country at the age of 37, Ardern helped the New Zealand Labor political party to a landslide win at the last election in 2020. At that point, she even became the world’s youngest female head of government.
During Ardern’s tenure, which will end on February 7, New Zealand was heralded for its “strict response to Covid-19, which helped New Zealand avoid the worst outcomes of the pandemic.” To wit, “The country of about 5 million people has recorded under 2,500 deaths, a lower per capita rate than the US and many European countries.” As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “the country [even] succeeded in effectively eliminating community transmission of the virus.” It was estimated (per Wikipedia), that her country’s actions saved as many as 80,000 lives.
While a variety of economic and social issues have more recently challenged Ardern’s leadership, support and popularity, the fact remains that “[Ardern] has faced more crises over the last five years than any other New Zealand prime minister in the postwar period.” Having achieved a myriad of successive leadership roles too numerous to mention over the course of her public service career to date, Ardern’s efforts are encapsulated by the words of Christopher Luxon, the New Zealand National Party Leader, who said simply “she has given her all to this incredibly demanding job, and I wish her and her family the best for the future.”
While clearly difficult to admit, Ardern acknowledged publicly several weeks’ back that “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough to do it justice. But I absolutely believe and know that there are others around me who do.”
Ardern’s transparency may reflect her humble beginnings, with a policeman father and a catering assistant mother. With her global mindset, though, she early on sought out new experiences, completing a semester abroad at Arizona State University and later spending time in New York, followed by volunteering at a soup kitchen and contributing to a worker’s rights campaign. According to Brittanica, “seeing children without shoes on their feet or anything to eat for lunch inspired her to eventually enter politics.”
Let us hope that this passion for improving the lives of others both continues throughout Jacinda Ardern’s life and also inspires politicians globally to act in the true spirit of public service.