Thursday, April 06, 2023

Jacinda Ardern’s Valedictory Speech

The video above is the Valedictory Speech from former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is resigning as the Member of Parliament for Mount Roskill See Also: "Watch: Jacinda Ardern gives valedictory speech as she leaves politics" from RNZ]. Such speeches are common for MPs who are leaving at or before the next General Election, which is October 14 this year. Jacinda announced back in January that she would leave Parliament this month, not at the same time she stepped down as Prime Minister, in order to avoid sparking a costly by-election so close to a General Election, which is exactly the sort of common-sense thing she was known for.

She’s taking on two new international roles. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins appointed her Special Envoy for the Christchurch Call, which Jacinda initiated to create a common effort among governments, the tech sector, and civil society to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online, something that helps spread both extremism and terrorism. Jacinda has declined any remuneration for this role. Prime Minister Hipkins said The Christchurch Call is “a foreign policy priority for the Government,” adding that “Jacinda Ardern is uniquely placed to keep pushing forward with the goal of eliminating violent extremist content online.”

The second role is that she’s joining Prime William’s The Earthshot Prize as a trustee. The organisation was “designed to find and grow the solutions that will repair our planet this decade”. In announcing that Jacinda is joining, Prince William said:
Four years ago, before The Earthshot Prize even had a name, Jacinda was one of the first people I spoke to, and her encouragement and advice was crucial to the Prize’s early success. I am hugely grateful to her for joining us as she takes the next steps in her career.
In September 2022, Jacinda attended The Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York where she spoke on behalf of Prince William [WATCH], who remained in the UK following the death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. She then went on to the UK for the Queen’s funeral.

It’s reasonably common for former prime ministers to take on international roles after leaving Parliament. There have been several who have done that just since I moved to New Zealand in 1995 (listed in order of their premiership): Mike Moore (prime minister 1989-90), served as Director General of the World Trade Organisation (1999-2002), the highest ranking job in an international bureaucracy ever held by a New Zealander. He was also appointed Ambassador to the USA in 2010, before returning to New Zealand due to ill health in 2015. Jim Bolger (prime minister 1990-97) was Ambassador to the USA 1999-2002. The next elected prime minister, Helen Clark (prime minister 1999-2008), became Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2009-2017. Bolger’s successor, Jenny Shipley (prime minister 1997-99), chose to join corporate boards instead of diplomatic work, as did Clark’s successor, John Key (prime minister 2008-16), and Key’s own successor, Bill English (prime minister 2016-17), did the same.

I’ve said many times that I don’t blame Jacinda for leaving. The loons, goons, and cartoons (LG&C) on the far-right and the fringe conspiracists were relentless in their attacks—and threats. By leaving, she can enjoy a more peaceful existence, one that doesn’t require carrying the burdens of being prime minister. It was the right decision for her and her family.

At the same time, New Zealand did well because of her (despite what the LG&C think), not the least because easily thousands of New Zealanders are alive today because of her government’s response to Covid. Sir Ashley Bloomfield, who was Director General of Health during the response to the pandemic, told RNZ that:
What we found in Aotearoa – in 2020, 2021 – we had less deaths than you would have predicted based on the previous years. And whilst once the Omicron variant came along, yes, we did see Covid-related deaths, the numbers have climbed. Still, if you look over those three years, cumulatively, we're still not back at the level, the number, you would have expected. That is unique, virtually unique around the world.
That’s because Ardern’s government listened to the experts and followed their advice. A good leader does what needs to be done, a great one does what must be done, no matter what. She showed the same sort of determination after the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, the eruption of Whakaari/White Island, and more.

Which is not to say or suggest that everything was perfect. There were times she held back too much, in my opinion, and her government wasted the opportunity given them by the voters of New Zealand who gave her a strong majority in Parliament. However, even that was often on principle: She wasn’t willing to do more things than she’d campaigned on in the 2020 General Election. At the same time, though, with the global economy in free-fall because of Covid, she didn’t want to risk making things even worse for New Zealand’s economy (despite what our rightwing and far-rightwing parties like to say).

On balance, I think her leadership was exactly what New Zealand needed. The fact is, there’s no Labour Government since I’ve been in New Zealand that’s done everything I thought they should/could have, and I’m pretty sure there never will be: Governing in a functioning democracy means compromise and prioritisation. On the other hand, I’ve seen National Party governments go farther and faster than was prudent, so there’s that.

I don’t know that there will be another prime minister as good as her in my lifetime, but we had her at the right time, and that’s what matters most. I certainly wish her well in her post-politics life, and with her new endeavours. The first time I met her, in the 2014 campaign, I knew immediately she was the real deal: Smart, competent, with a deep understanding of policy and solutions, and also able to think rationally and with compassion. She’s proved me right ever since.

Thank you, Jacinda. I wish you nothing but the best for the future.


Watch: "What Jacinda Ardern thinks of her time as Prime Minister"
– Interview with John Campbell, 1News on YouTube


Roger Owen Green said...

This actually got a brief mention on NBC Nightly News. (But Clarence Thomas' misdeeds did not)

Arthur Schenck said...

It even made it to Keith Olbermann's podcast, where he called it "the happiest political speech I have ever heard." He kept saying "imagine if we had that here". Indeed. It came after a segment in which Keith talked about Fascist Steve Bannon recruiting anti-vaxx nutjob RFK Jr. as a chaos agent to primary President Biden.