Jacinda Adern: A new kind of leader by Madeline Chapman
Nero, 2020. ISBN: 9781760641818.
(Age: Senior secondary/adult) Highly recommended. There are few women in powerful positions around the world, and this story of Adern's rise makes for an amazing read, one which may excite other young women to strive to follow their passion.
Adern came from an unusual background, a small farm in Muruparo the daughter of Mormon parents. The book details her early foray into human rights issues at school, then attending Waikato University and volunteering at the New Plymouth by-election. From there she worked for a grass roots MP in Wellington when she became attracted to the Young Labour Movement, eventually becoming world president of the International Union of Socialist Youth in 2008. A spectacular rise for one so young, but as the book points out, she did not become president through being naive. She was clearly cunning, astute and clever, using her opportunities to perfection.
On leaving home her views of the world changed and she espoused Maori rights and climate change action as well as championing gay rights, bringing her into conflict with her family and her religion. The Labour Party at this time was trying to bring more women into leadership roles. She was in the right place at the right time. And she is a worker. Through a series of quick leadership changes in 2017, she became leader of the party just a couple of months before election day with Labour polling 23%. Tirelessly promoting a positive position, using social media to perfection, her boundless enthusiasm saw her party neck and neck with the National Party which had ruled for the past nine years. The NZ First party backed Labour and which led to Ardern becoming Prime Minister in a minority government. Here she promoted climate change policy, gender equity and Maori rights. She attended the UN world summit in 2018, the first world leader to bring a baby into the proceedings. Her speech promoted the need for gender equality around the world, trade and climate change and was universally applauded. But, it was her response to the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch in 2018 that has defined her. She received the news at 1:50 pm about a situation in Christchurch on her way to speak at New Plymouth. She went to the police station, by 4.20 pm held a press conference, and by 7 pm gave an address to the nation. This speech, quoted in the book named the killer as a terrorist, and called not for revenge, but love and kindness. She flagged the changes to gun laws and within the week this was being formulated. She attended the Muslim Centre wearing a headscarf as a sign of respect, calling for peace. Radio stations broadcast the Muslim call for prayer, and Adern's names was broadcast around the world, showing a compassionate leader putting herself on the line. Her speech is well worth reading.
The book gives hints to what makes her such a fine leader, that fearless determination to do what she sees as right for New Zealand and all of its population. Sometimes she appears naive and sometimes it is hard to separate that from a born politician, but people do not call her the 'smiling assassin' for nothing. Details about election wins, take up many pages, but then it is a biography of a politician.
This is an eminently readable, sometimes frustrating, book which gives a broad look at a woman who has made a difference.
Speeches are quoted at the end of the text, with pages of sources and a useful index. Themes: Jacinda Adern, Biography, Christchurch NZ, New Zealand, Politics, Terrorism.