PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Jacinda Ardern might have joined her small-town high school’s board of trustees to lobby for girls’ right to wear pants to class. She might even have become heavily involved in politics after attending college, joining election campaigns and serving as a political party researcher. But the New Zealand native never aspired to public office.
“I spent a year working for [former New Zealand Prime Minister] Helen Clark,” Ardern said. “The closer I got to observing her… the more assured I felt that being prime minister was for no one. It was a horrific job.”
Yet in 2017, seven weeks before a national election, Ardern found herself nominated for the job — and at age 37, she stepped with some trepidation into New Zealand’s highest political office. She became the youngest prime minister the country had seen in 150 years.
“There wasn’t a day when I woke up and said, ‘I want to be prime minister,’” she admitted. “There was a day when I woke up and saw, shoot, I’m prime minister. It was not a traditional trajectory.”
Ardern — who stepped down from her role earlier this year after five years in office — spoke about imposter syndrome, international political divisions and a range of other topics at Brown University’s 102nd Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs on Thursday, Oct. 5. Ardern was the latest of dozens of heads of state, diplomats and other leaders to participate in the 58-year-old series; other recent guest lecturers have included former British prime minister Theresa May, New York Times editor and Brown alumnus A.G. Sulzberger and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.