BEIRUT: Whether it’s being the youngest woman ever to lead New Zealand, the second elected world leader in history to have a baby while in office after Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto, or the first world leader to attend a United Nations assembly with her infant child, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern has shattered a plethora of glass ceilings.
Ardern grew up in a conservative labor party household joining the party herself at the age of 17. She was raised Mormon but, left the church in 2005 due to her conflicting views with the church’s take on homosexuality.
Prior to assuming office, she worked in Tony Blair’s cabinet office. In addition to being a staffer for former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, she was later elected to parliament in 2008.
Perhaps her most interesting role prior to becoming PM was her role as a DJ. Ardern’s mixes contained everything from the Spice Girls to the Beatles. In fact, there is a Spotify playlist dedicated to her set at St. Jerome's Laneway Festival in 2014.
"I remember that so well because I have permanent hearing damage through my left ear as a consequence and it was amazing to be a part of a festival that is so intrinsically Auckland, so wonderful," she said in a speech to a crowd in 2018.
Despite never standing shy of international news headlines, Ardern’s most recognized act was her response to the tragedy known as the March 15th Christchurch mosque, where an Australian white supremacist opened fire in a mosque in New Zealand killing 50 and injuring many more.
She took to Twitter to address the situation, while refusing to name the killer.
“He may have sought notoriety but, we in New Zealand will give him nothing,” she said. “Not even his name.”
“What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us,” she tweeted.
Shortly thereafter, Ardern announced that New Zealand would introduce new laws addressing military weapons. Within a few days, Ardern announced a ban on Military-style semiautomatic and automatic weapons, pledging government buybacks for those that already own them with an estimated cost of $100 to $200 million.
"That is the price we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities," she stated in her speech to the public.
Ardern's reaction to the situation comes in stark contrast to other leader’s responses to shootings all over the world.
However, it was not only her political reaction that captured the admiration of the world but rather, the compassion she showed. Wearing a black hijab as a sign of respect. Ardern was photographed embracing the Christchurch victims’ families, giving addresses at local schools with no prepared speeches, and speaking on solidarity in times of despair.
“The answer lies in our humanity,” Ardern said. “We each hold the power – in our words, in our actions, in our daily acts of kindness. Let that be the legacy of the 15th of March,” she said in her speech.
In the past week, her reputation skyrocketed even further because she paid the grocery bill of a struggling mother-in-need who had forgotten her purse at the supermarket.
Leaders of the world, take note.
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