Jacinda Ardern’s 14 best quotes: ‘To me, leadership is not about being the loudest in the room’

Sophie Gallagher
·4-min read
Rex Features
Rex Features

Jacinda Ardern was elected as the prime minister of New Zealand in October 2017, after the populist New Zealand First party agreed to form a centre-left coalition with her Labour Party.

Ardern is her country’s youngest leader since 1856 and became the world’s youngest female head of government when she took office at the age of 37.

Ardern, who formerly worked in the Cabinet Office in London, was nominated on a pledge to increase the minimum wage, write child poverty reduction targets into law and build affordable homes.

During her time as prime minister, Ardern had her first child – a daughter Neve – in June 2018, making her the second elected head of government to give birth while in office, as well as guiding New Zealand through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings and the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 26 July Ardern, who has frequently described herself as a progressive, republican, feminist, and supports the compulsory teaching of Maori language in schools, will celebrate her 40th birthday. Here are her 14 best quotes from her three years in power.

On capitalism

“Capitalism has failed our people. If you have hundreds of thousands of children living in homes without enough to survive, that’s a blatant failure. What else could you describe it as?”

On racism

“Even the ugliest of viruses can exist in places they are not welcome. Racism exists, but it is not welcome here. Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been. But we can be the nation that discovers the cure.”


On leadership

“To me, leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room, but instead being the bridge, or the thing that is missing in the discussion and trying to build a consensus from there.”

On compassion

“It takes courage and strength to be empathetic, and I’m very proudly an empathetic and compassionate leader. I am trying to chart a different path, and that will attract criticism but I can only be true to myself and the form of leadership I believe in.”

On the role of politicians

“We need to make sure we are looking at people’s ability to actually have a meaningful life, an enjoyable life, where their work is enough to survive and support their families.”

On terrorism

“Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the man who took them. He may seek notoriety but we will give him nothing, not even his name.”

On her baby daughter

“I hope that she doesn’t feel any limitations. That she doesn’t have any sense of what girls can or can’t do. That it’s just not even a concept for her.”

On victims of the Christchurch shootings

“They will remain with us forever. They are us. But with that memory comes a responsibility. A responsibility to be the place that we wish to be. A place that is diverse, that is welcoming, that is kind and compassionate. Those values represent the very best of us.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

On coronavirus

“The worst case scenario is simply intolerable. It would represent the greatest loss of New Zealander’s lives in our country’s history. I will not take that chance. The government will do all it can to protect you. None of us can do this alone.”

On doing the right thing

“Do you want to be a leader that looks back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution?”

On Theresa May

“The last thing I ever do is dish out advice or commentary on other people’s politics. It’s a difficult game and I know certainly where I am coming from you don’t see the layers behind the scenes. She is a woman of remarkable resilience.”

On female guilt

“I do find it difficult. I go through the exact same emotion any other parent does when I’m away from her for a period of time... The guilt of whether or not I’m a good enough daughter, sister, partner, mother – show me a woman who doesn’t.”

On leaving her Mormon religion to support LGBT rights

“For a lot of years I put it to the back of my mind. I think it was too unsettling... I lived in a flat with three gay friends and I remember going to church and thinking – I’m either doing a disservice to the church or my friends. How could I subscribe to a religion that didn’t account for them?”

On being a working mum

“I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby – there are many women who have done this before.”