Meet Dame Jacinda

Former New Zealand PM given one of nation's highest honors
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 5, 2023 11:00 AM CDT
Meet Dame Jacinda
Jacinda Ardern makes her final speech to New Zealand's Parliament on April 5.   (Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

You might remember her as the youngest prime minster New Zealand has ever seen; who picked up the state house phone herself when a journalist called to ask how to pronounce her name; who became only the second world leader to give birth in office; who won global praise for her swift reaction to a mass shooting; who unflappably guided her country sternly through the pandemic; and who then suddenly quit, citing burnout, and announced she'd become a Harvard fellow. You will, as of Monday, now know Jacinda Ardern as a Dame Grand Companion, reports the AP, as she received New Zealand's second-highest honor for her five years of service at the helm of the country.

The honor comes as part of King Charles III's birthday honors (for the record, the king was born in November, but like his mother, for whatever reason gets to celebrate twice as well), and means that you may now refer to her as Dame Jacinda. The New Zealand PM typically picks royal honorees twice a year and Charles, the British king who's also recognized as New Zealand's king, signs off. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who succeeded Ardern, said she was being recognized for her service during "some of the greatest challenges our country has faced in modern times. Leading New Zealand's response to the 2019 terrorist attacks and to the COVID-19 pandemic represented periods of intense challenge for our 40th prime minister, during which time I saw firsthand that her commitment to New Zealand remained absolute," Hipkins said in a statement.

Ardern said she was in two minds about whether to accept the award because much of what she was being recognized for were experiences that were collective to all New Zealanders. "So for me, this is about my family, my colleagues, and all those who supported me to do that incredibly rewarding job," she told 1News. Ardern will be temporarily joining Harvard University later this year after she was appointed to dual fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has also taken on an unpaid role combating online extremism. Also recognized are:

  • Rugby coach Wayne Smith, who helped lead both men's and women's rugby teams representing New Zealand to World Cup victories.
  • In keeping with tradition, Britain's Queen Camilla was given the top award by being appointed to the Order of New Zealand.
(More Jacinda Ardern stories.)

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