Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked out of parliament on Wednesday, making an impassioned plea during her final, tear-jerking speech to “please get the politics out of climate change.”
Ardern shocked New Zealand earlier this year when she announced she was stepping down as prime minister and retiring from politics, saying she did not have “enough in the tank” anymore.
Dressed in a korowai – a traditional Māori feathered cloak – Ardern recalls her humble beginnings in a working-class family, and how she never expected to lead the country.
“It was a cross between a sense of duty to steer a moving freight train…and being hit by one,” she quipped during her farewell address. Perhaps this is because my inner sense of leadership was matched only by a great sense of responsibility.
Ardern has led New Zealand through natural disasters, the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre – where a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked out of parliament on Wednesday, making an impassioned plea during her final, tear-jerking speech to “please get politics out of climate change.” Pictured: Ardern was seen on Wednesday wearing a traditional Maori feathered gown as she delivered her final speech to Parliament
But she did point to the climate crisis as the defining issue of her time in politics.
“Climate change is a crisis,” she said.
“And so one of the very few things I will ask of this house when I leave is that you take the politics out of climate change.”
The 42-year-old, once the youngest woman in the world, choked at several points during the speech, which she began and ended in Maori.
Her voice was filled with emotion as she recalled the pain caused by the Christchurch attack, which she said left her “bereft”.
“Having seen our nation in horrible moments of grief,” she said, “I have concluded that nations do not move on from tragedy, but become part of your psyche.”
Ardern ended her speech by saying that she had hoped she had shown that being ruthless and ruthless are not the only hallmarks of good leadership.
“I can’t say what will define my time here,” she said.
“But I hope I showed something else entirely — that you can be concerned and sensitive and kind and have your heart on your sleeve.”
Ardern left the debate hall to thunderous applause and a standing ovation, before colleagues and opponents alike erupted into a series of Maori folk songs.
She will now dedicate herself to eradicating online extremism as part of the Christchurch Appeal Project, which she set up as Prime Minister in the wake of the mosque attack.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who attended the first Christchurch Appeal Summit, said he was heartened to see Ardern continue to “fight terrorist and violent extremist content online”.
Ardern will also become a trustee of the Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, which seeks solutions to the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Despite her scintillating reputation on the international stage — she graced the cover of Time magazine in 2020 — Ardern wasn’t universally loved at home.
Ardern has led New Zealand through natural disasters, the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre – where a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers. Pictured: Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Orden gives an emotional final speech
Jacinda Ardern, second from left, embraces Finance Minister Grant Robertson after Ardern delivers her final speech to the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington, on Wednesday, April 5.
She became a concern of online abuse as her premiership continued, and was regularly targeted in violent and sexist social media posts.
A recent study by the University of Auckland found that Ardern was targeted with 50 times more abuse online than any other high-profile person in New Zealand.
Earlier this year, a New Zealand man was sentenced to serve more than a year in prison after he threatened to kill her.
But Ardern has been reluctant to blame such attacks for her resignation, instead stressing her desire to spend more time with her fiancé, Clark Gifford, and her young daughter, Neff.