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Former New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern is heading to Harvard

Former New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern is heading to Harvard

After stepping down as leader of New Zealand earlier this year, Jacinda Ardern has revealed that she is swapping the rough and tumble of politics for a stint of quiet reflection within academia overseas, heading to Harvard University this fall under two fellowships.
She was appointed to dual fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School, the university’s school of public policy and government, according to a news release by Harvard.

She will serve as the Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow, a program aimed at high-profile leaders transitioning from public service roles, and the Hauser Leader in the School’s Center for Public Leadership, a program where leaders from various sectors help students and faculty build leadership skills.

“Jacinda Ardern showed the world strong and empathetic political leadership,” said Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf in the news release. “She earned respect far beyond the shores of her country, and she will bring important insights for our students and will generate vital conversations about the public policy choices facing leaders at all levels.”

“I am incredibly humbled to be joining Harvard University as a fellow – not only will it give me the opportunity to share my experience with others, it will give me a chance to learn,” Ardern said in the release. “As leaders, there’s often very little time for reflection, but reflection is critical if we are to properly support the next generation of leaders.”

At the same time, Ardern will be completing a separate fellowship at the Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, where she will be studying ways to contain extremist content online.

In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Arden said she would be doing “some speaking, teaching, and learning.”

She added that Harvard had been an important partner in her work for Christchurch Call – an initiative she helped launch in 2019 to counter terrorist and violent extremist content online, two months after the Christchurch terrorist attack that killed 51 people in two mosques. The attacker had livestreamed the incident and published a manifesto online beforehand.

Ardern said she would be gone for a semester, missing out on the New Zealand general election, but would return at the end of the fellowships. “After all, New Zealand is home!” she wrote.

When Ardern became the country’s prime minister in 2017 at the age of 37, she was New Zealand’s third female leader and one of the youngest leaders in the world. Within a year, she had become only the second world leader to give birth in office.

Her time in power was defined by multiple crises, including the Christchurch attack, a deadly volcanic explosion, and a global pandemic.

She quickly became a progressive global icon, remembered for her empathy while steering New Zealand through these crises and for taking her baby daughter to the United Nations General Assembly.

However, at home her popularity ebbed amid the rising cost of living, housing shortages and economic anxiety. And she faced violent anti-lockdown protests in the capital Wellington, with threats made against her.

Ardern announced her shock resignation in January, saying she no longer had enough fuel in the tank to contest an election.

She bid her final farewell earlier this month with an emotional speech in parliament, affirming to all the nerds, criers, huggers, mothers and ex-Mormons of the world: “You can be all of these things. And not only can you be here; you can lead. Just like me.”
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