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New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern to speak at Harvard commencement

Ardern is New Zealand's youngest prime minister in over 150 years.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces the country will move to red traffic light setting as part of new COVID-19 restrictions during a press conference in Wellington, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. (Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, is set to be the principal speaker at Harvard University’s class of 2022 commencement, the university announced Monday.

Ardern, 41, became the leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party in August 2017. Just two months later, she was elected to be the country’s youngest prime minister in over 150 years at age 37.

She has been internationally recognized for her work promoting women’s rights, her response to the 2019 Christchurch shooting, and her proactive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Prime Minister Ardern is one of the most respected leaders on the world stage and we are delighted she will join us in May to celebrate the Class of 2022,” Harvard President Larry Bacow said in a news release.

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“From climate change and gender equality to COVID-19, she has modeled compassionate leadership that has brought together empathy and science-based solutions to address the most challenging issues of our time.”

Ardern was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, and graduated from Waikato University in 2001 with a degree in professional communications and international relations.

She pursued a career in politics, working for New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark before moving to the U.K. to serve as a senior policy adviser for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Ardern became an MP in 2008, becoming the youngest member of Parliament at that time.

Ardern was re-elected as Prime Minister in a landslide victory in 2020. During her time in office, she has focused on gender equality and combatting climate change. She also appointed New Zealand’s first Indigenous female foreign minister.

Ardern continues to be popular internationally, having been named twice to Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list, repeatedly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s most powerful women, and topping the Fortune 2021 list of the world’s greatest leaders.

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