Jacinda Ardern has put tiny New Zealand on the map in her five years as prime minister, becoming a global icon for left-leaning politics and women in leadership, even as she struggled at home with the economy and COVID-19 restrictions.
The 41-year-old— who gained attention for bringing her baby to a United Nations meeting and wearing a hijab after a massacre targeting Muslims— announced in similarly dramatic fashion on Thursday that she will step down in less than three weeks, saying she had "no more in the tank".
"Be strong, be kind," New Zealand's youngest prime minister in more than a century repeated through her eventful tenure, but her empathetic leadership and crisis management skills often masked her government's shortcomings.
Considered personable and engaging, Ardern turned speaking from the heart and smiling through adversity into a winning formula for surging to power in 2017 and returning with a blowout win in 2020 that ushered in New Zealand's first purely left-leaning government in decades.
Her leadership was marked by unprecedented events for the island nation of 5 million: the 2019 massacre of 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch by a white supremacist and the eruption of the White Island volcano, and, the next year, the pandemic.
"I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focussed," Ardern said in an emotional resignation announcement. "And that you can be your own kind of leader— one who knows when it’s time to go."
Following are comments from figures in government and others about her resignation:
"Thank you, jacindaardern, for your partnership and your friendship – and for your empathic, compassionate, strong, and steady leadership over these past several years. The difference you have made is immeasurable. I’m wishing you and your family nothing but the best, my friend."
"Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities. Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me."
"#PrimeMinister jacindaardern resigned today. I am not surprised nor do I blame her. Her treatment, the pile on, in the last few months has been disgraceful and embarrassing. All the bullies, the misogynists, the aggrieved. She deserved so much better. A great leader."
"On behalf of the National Party, I offer to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern our thanks for her service to New Zealand. She has given her all to this incredibly demanding job and I wish her and her family all the very best for the future. Thank you Jacinda."
"Not only has she been the most incredible boss but she has been a huge support to me in a personal capacity. I will never, ever forget the support and aroha she gave to me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jacinda is a great leader, the hardest-working person I have ever met."
"Jacinda's empathic and strong leadership guided New Zealand through the heart-breaking Christchurch mosque shootings and the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic."
"Jacinda Ardern has been a decisive and tireless leader of our country through unprecedented challenges, and we will be sorry to see her go."
"Jacinda has been a voice of calm, kind reassurance and strength. I can think of no better person to have led us through the past five and a half years and I totally respect her decision to stand aside. I know after she has had some time to recharge we will hear more from Jacinda."
"It is a sad day for politics where an outstanding leader has been driven from office for constant personalisation and vilification. Her whanau have withstood the ugliest attacks over the last two years with what we believe to be the most demeaning form of politics we have ever seen."
"I want to acknowledge the leadership of the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and the contribution she has made to ensure a more tolerant and inclusive Aotearoa NZ at a time when so many challenges confronted her. She has led with grace, kindness and decisiveness. Thank you."
"Much will be written about Jacinda’s substantial and significant legacy. For now, I express my gratitude to Jacinda for the humanity and empathy she brought to leadership, and wish her and her family well for the next chapters of their lives."
"Your more than 5 years in office have occurred during the most turbulent time the world has faced since the second World War. You leave a legacy of true leadership qualities of compassion, strength, and kindness during some of NZ’s most challenging tragedies including the Christchurch mosque shootings, the White Island eruption and the COVID pandemic."
"The saying goes, we don’t remember days, we remember moments. How warmly PM Arden welcomed us to Aotearoa, being w/ her & the President in the Oval… so many treasured moments. An incredible world leader, she is manaakitanga personified. Very proud of what we accomplished together."