Two quotes stand out from Jacinda Ardern’s maiden speech to Parliament in December 2008. (Watch the speech in the player above.)

“I’ve never given up on finding new ways to change what is going on around me,” she says of her time as a worker advocate.

And: “Some people have asked me if I’m a radical. My answer to that is very simple. I’m from Morrinsville. Where I come from a radical is someone who chooses to drive a Toyota rather than a Holden or a Ford. I am, though, a Social Democrat. I believe strongly in the values of human rights, social justice, equality democracy and the role of communities.”

Ardern credits Helen Clark with making her proud to be a member of the Labour Party.

She paid tribute to the former Prime Minister and leader sitting in the opposition benches along from her.

“My generation grew up under your leadership Helen and many don’t know how good they had it. I have no doubt that your leadership will leave a legacy well beyond my own generation,” she said. 

Ardern, elected on Labour’s list as Clark’s government fell to defeat, said her experiences growing up in Murupara were behind her commitment to social justice, and her commitment to politics came from that.

She set out her belief that “our welfare state is a necessary safety net, and a support for those who are unable to support themselves” and called for compulsory teaching of te reo Maori in schools, highlighted the value of unions both in her early part-time jobs and while living in New York.

As holder of Labour’s youth portfolio at the time, Ardern said:”We all have the responsibility to help restore a little bit of faith in our political process…. to find new and better ways of listening and responding.”

“Some may call this participatory democracy. I just call it our job.”

She spoke of her time as president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, travelling to far flung places from Bhutanese refugee camps to the Western Sahara, Lebanon and the West Bank.

Ardern told Parliament it was unspeakable that New Zealand had at that time formed a parliamentary select committee to question the science of climate change.

“I’ve never given up on finding new ways to change what is going on around me.”

She said she had been a public servant in the UK, “a career that I have a great amount of respect for,”  working on regulatory matters, promoting safe regulation for consumers in the small business sector.

On family, she credited her parents  for showing her “that the world is not always black and white. Nor is it rose tinted, and I honour them.”  Her grandmother Gladys was the most political influence in the family, turning off the television when National Prime Minister Rob Muldoon appeared. 

Her finishing line: “It is the things I have seen, the lessons I have learned, the people of New Zealand I wish to serve, that have brought me to this place and these are the very things I wish to haunt me as long as I have the privilege of serving here.”

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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