Former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern says she would have “reminded everyone to remember our shared common humanity” in response to the Israel-Hamas war if she still held New Zealand’s top political post.
She made the comments at the Harvard Institute of Politics forum on Monday according to The Harvard Crimson. She holds two fellowships at Harvard, one at the Harvard Kennedy School and another at Harvard Law School.
Dame Jacinda Ardern holds two fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School and another at Harvard Law School. Photo / Harvard Staff Photographer Kris Snibbe
“The only way to find long-term peaceful resolution to difficult and complex conflicts is if you find a way to end the violence and grief in order to give yourself the space to then have those conversations,” Ardern said.
When asked how she would have reacted as a leader, she said she would have “reminded everyone to remember our shared common humanity”.
“It’s very hard to find peaceful resolution at the midst of violence and grief,” she said.
Other topics raised during her address included Labour’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. She told the crowd she considered herself very “youth-adjacent” when discussing why New Zealand did not pass curfews unlike other countries.
“So now I consider myself youth-adjacent. I felt like I was at least young enough to remember pubs and clubs, even if I hadn’t been to one in a decade,” she said.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure Covid doesn’t knock off at 10pm.”
Ardern said Labour was constantly factored in the “human experience” when making decisions around lockdown restrictions.
The March 15 mosque shooting was also raised during the speech. Ardnern discussed the banning of AR-15s and later assault rifles and military-style semiautomatic weapons, a topic of heated debate in the United States.
Ardern’s compassionate response to the attack was commended worldwide, with an image of her wearing a hijab while embracing a victim’s family member later projected onto the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
She noted New Zealand had deep farming roots, and mentioned how difficult it was it to differentiate the crossover between the weapons designed to take human life and those used for the likes of shooting ducks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting the Muslim community in Christchurch after the March 15 attack. Photo / SNPA
Ardern shot possums as a child in her family orchard, which helped inform her decision on the matter. She also met with a group of local police and asked them about restricting the number of weapons a person may legally possess.
“Should I reduce it down, and if I should, what level?” she said, remembering the interaction.
“They conferred amongst themselves and had a brief conversation and then said five is enough, so that was it, I walked away and set a limit at five.”
Lastly, she gave the students in the audience sound advice on overcoming imposter syndrome, something she struggled with immensely after rising to power so quickly as a woman at such a young age.
“People often ask me, ‘How did you overcome that?’” she said.
“Never did. I absolutely never did. Yet, I was Prime Minister for five years in spite of that.”
Ardern said you “never know what you are capable of until you are doing it” when giving students advice on how to overcome similar issues she faced.
“If you constantly anticipate that you do not have the skills or the capability to take on a role, you have no idea of what opportunities you will be missing out on, but worse, what others will lose out on because you are holding yourself back,” she said.
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