Jacinda Ardern Delivers A Final Emotional Address To New Zealand’s Parliament

The outgoing prime minister said she wanted to inspire others to enter politics while reflecting on her tumultuous five-year tenure.
Outgoing New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern gives her valedictory speech in parliament in Wellington.
Outgoing New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern gives her valedictory speech in parliament in Wellington.
MARK COOTE via Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern has described herself as a “hugger and a crier” as the former New Zealand prime minister said she wanted her career to inspire others to take political office in an emotional farewell address to New Zealand’s parliament.

Ardern – who burst onto the global scene in 2017 when she became the world’s youngest female head of government at age 37 – had stepped down in January saying she had “no more in the tank” to lead the country.

In her departing address, wearing a traditional Māori cloak called a korowai, she described how she’d navigated a pandemic and a mass-shooting during her tumultuous five-year tenure as prime minister.

When Ardern finished speaking after about 35 minutes, she was greeted with a standing ovation by politicians from across the political spectrum and rousing renditions of several indigenous Māori songs.

The daughter of a policeman and school canteen operator, Ardern described how she never thought she was meant to have the role of prime minister.

While she couldn’t control how her tenure would be defined by others, Ardern said, she hoped it had demonstrated something else.

“That you can be anxious, sensitive, kind and wear your heart on your sleeve,” she said. “You can be a mother, or not, you can be an ex-Mormon, or not, you can be a nerd, a crier, a hugger, you can be all of these things, and not only can you be here, you can lead, just like me.”

As head of the centre-left Labour party for five years, Ardern steered New Zealand through a volcanic eruption, a 2019 attack by a gunman in Christchurch that killed 51 Muslim worshippers and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ardern said she had found herself involved in people’s lives “during their most grief-stricken or traumatic moments” in that series of events.

She also described how she and fiancé Clarke Gayford thought they couldn’t have children after a failed round of IVF.

“Rather than process that, I campaigned to become prime minister,” she joked. “A rather good distraction as far as they go. Imagine my surprise when a couple of months later, I discovered I was pregnant.”

Ardern became just the second elected world leader to give birth while holding office after she and Gayford had daughter Neve in 2018.

Ardern described how she’d approached the Covid-19 pandemic on a scientific basis and how New Zealand had fared best among developed nations when measuring excess mortality.

She said she once tried to argue with a lone protestor about a false conspiracy theory.

“But after many of these same experiences, and seeing the rage that often sat behind these conspiracies, I had to accept I was wrong,” she said. “I could not single-handedly pull someone out of a rabbit hole.”

Later this month, Ardern will begin an unpaid role combating online extremism as special envoy for the Christchurch Call. It’s an initiative she started with French president Emmanuel Macron two months after the Christchurch shooting.

She has also announced she’s joining the board of trustees for The Earthshot Prize, an environmental charity started by Prince William.


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