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New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern takes on a new role after leaving politics this week

Jacinda Ardern gives her farewell speech in parliament in Wellington on April 5.
Mark Coote
AFP via Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern gives her farewell speech in parliament in Wellington on April 5.

Welcome to the NPR series where we spotlight the people and things making headlines — and the stories behind them.

In a rousing and, at times, personal farewell speech this week in parliament, Jacinda Ardern touched on family, politics and one of the very few things she will ask of her colleagues as she departs.

Who is she? The former prime minister of New Zealand.

  • Arden stepped down as the country's leader in January, saying she "no longer had enough in the tank," and this week said goodbye to parliament and politics altogether.
  • Ardern joined the New Zealand House of Representatives 15 years ago when she was just 28 years old. At the time, she was its youngest member.
  • Ardern's period as PM from 2017-23 was punctuated by major crises for the country, including the Christchurch mosque shootings that left 51 dead; the volcanic eruption on White Island that killed 22; and the coronavirus pandemic.
  • She has just announced she has been appointed a trustee of Prince William's Earthshot Prize, a program that awards funds to projects aiming to save the planet.
  • What's the big deal?

  • Arden became known outside New Zealand for a style of leadership that sat in contrast to the likes of Donald Trump in the U.S. and Boris Johnson in the U.K. — her contemporaries at the time — asserting that you can be anxious, sensitive and kind and still be an effective leader.
  • She has also faced and deflected sexism, most recently shutting down a question about her age while meeting with Finland's then prime minister, Sanna Marin.
  • Ardern made history when she brought her baby Neve to the U.N. General Assembly three months after birth.
  • Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, days after the attacks.
    Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images
    Getty Images
    Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, days after the attacks.

    What is she saying? In her final speech this week, Ardern spoke of both her personal and political ambitions and achievements.

    On describing herself as a "worrier":

    Some might say the worst possible character trait to have as a politician, or the best depending on how you cut it.

    I've always believed this to be a place where you can make a difference. I leave knowing that to be true ... And not only can you be here, you can lead just like me.

    On climate change:

    Climate change is a crisis. It is upon us. And so one of the very few things I will ask of this House on my departure is that you please take the politics out of climate change.

    On her personal life:

    I had not long experienced a failed IVF round when I became leader of the Labour Party. I thought that I had found myself on a path that meant I wouldn't be a mother. Rather than process that, I campaigned to become prime minister, a rather good distraction as far as they go. Imagine my surprise when a couple of months later I discovered I was pregnant.

    View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)

    So, what now?

  • Arden said she was "humbled and excited" for her new position with the Earthshot Prize.
  • Ardern will also take on an unpaid role as special envoy for Christchurch Call, an organization she helped establish in 2019 in the days after the mosque shootings, which aims to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
  • Learn more:

  • Chris Hipkins becomes New Zealand's next prime minister after Ardern resigns
  • Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin shut down a reporter's sexist question about their ages
  • New Zealand lawmakers banned from TikTok amid data use fears
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    Patrick Wood
    Patrick Wood is the digital lead for All Things Considered. Previously, he was a reporter and supervising editor at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
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