What The World Needs More Of: Great (Women) Leaders!

Reproduced from The Winnipeg Free Presse

Jacinda Ardern had plenty of reason to gloat today.

But New Zealand’s prime minister didn’t.

And that might go a long way to explaining why New Zealand has become the first among the OECD group of wealthy nations to eradicate COVID-19.

That doesn’t mean she wasn’t in a celebratory mood over the fact there were no more active cases, no more community transmission and no more reason to social distance on her island nation of five million. As Ardern explained in a FaceTime Live chat Monday, she did a little dance in front of her two-year-old daughter Neve that she admitted was a bit of a “semi-co-ordinated movement my child couldn’t understand.’’But aside from her own wobbly camera work as she talked to her citizenry from what appeared to be some back-office more akin to a grade school staff room than a prime minister’s office, there was the same steadiness, the same measured tone that has drawn world-wide attention for how she came out on top of the significant pandemic threat Down Under.

New Zealand’s first case was Feb. 28. Facing dire forecasts that as many as 27,600 Kiwis could die from the pandemic, she put the country into lockdown on March 25. That firm step flattened the curve so quickly that the country only recorded 1,504 cases and 22 deaths.

And now, less than three months later, New Zealanders are free to return to life as normal. They can go to concerts. Play sports. Celebrate without fear.I was struck as I watched Ardern’s video chat to fellow Kiwis how genuine she seemed as she talked about what the nation had been through and what lay ahead. There was empathy. There was gratitude. And there was advice to keep washing your hands, just in case.

What you didn’t see was any partisan gamesmanship, boasting, or some over-the-top claims about what it meant to be a Kiwi or how New Zealand was suddenly better than every other nation.I know a vaccine to keep us all safe is still a long way in the distance. But in the meantime, maybe Ardern’s counterparts on the global stage — most of whom are men — need to pay attention to her political prescription.

— Paul Samyn, Winnipeg Free Press editor

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Written by Michael Trigg

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