As if becoming the world’s youngest prime minister wasn’t enough, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern appears to have broken the traditional politician mold in the best sense. In contrast to the 45th US President’s moneyed background and storied albeit controversial rise to power, Ardern’s beginnings seem to be unlikely as they could be for a world leader.
For starters, the 37-year-old was born into a devout Mormon family, but ended up leaving the faith over its conservative, or rather, opposing views towards same-sex marriage. She was also an avid attendee of music festivals and even did 45-minute DJ sets featuring tunes from the Spice Girls, The Beatles, Iggy Pop, and Snoop Dogg on her MacBook!
And while Ardern was voted “Most Likely to Become Prime Minister” in her school days as a joke, her youth was peppered with instances evincing a keen interest in politics. Apparently, she often campaigned during high school elections and even called upon her school to allow female pupils to wear trousers. She also got involved with the Labour Party at the tender age of 17, knocking on doors and handing out flyers on their behalf in between working shifts at the local fish shop.
About eleven years later, the future PM would become New Zealand’s youngest Labour Member of Parliament in 2008, an event that turned out to foreshadow the results of the country’s elections last year.
As an unabashed liberal (Ardern has been quite vocal about gender equality and climate change, two hot-button topics that radically conservative leaders the world over have chosen to either sidestep or outrightly deny), New Zealand’s newly-minted chief executive has, in the eyes of many, emerged as a breath of fresh air amidst a rather alarming wave of authoritarianism.
Even the First Couple’s plans for rearing their first child is quite telling of the progressive direction the country is poised to take. Clarke Gayford, a television presenter on a fishing show and Ardern’s life partner, will reportedly become a stay-at-home father and would personally bring their baby along to the prime minister’s workplace to provide the latter with some mother-child quality time.
“We’re going to make this work and New Zealand is going to help us raise our first child,” Ardern said.
Breaking with tradition appears to be a common theme within the new prime minister’s platform. The country is surrounded by island nations that will undoubtedly feel the brunt of climate change, but its biggest businesses happen to be in carbon-heavy industries like farming, horticulture, and forestry.
Ardern has specifically communicated her intention to extend New Zealand’s moral leadership as a nuclear-free nation to the battle against global warming. “We’re small,” she said, referring to the country’s population of under five million, “but we do our bit by standing up for what we believe in….The most difficult thing for us to do is to mitigate and offset our agricultural emissions. If we find a way to do that, then we’re showing other countries how to do it too.”
Given her views and declared stance, one might wonder what went down when Ardern’s US counterpart met the woman being hailed by some as the Anti-Trump. Apparently, the two had an interesting encounter at last year’s APEC dinner. President Trump supposedly pointed to Ardern and, in reference to the results of New Zealand’s vote, said, “This lady just caused a lot of upset in her country.”
Ardern’s response? “No one marched when I was elected.”