On Harvard commencement


Australian Associated Press “New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern addresses Harvard on gun control and democracy” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/27/jacinda-ardern-wows-harvard-with-new-zealands-lesson-on-gun-control-and-democracy


Ardern’s address was built around the need for democratic systems and informed debate, invoking the same plea from the late Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto*2, who underscored the “fragility” of democracy in her own address to the university in 1989.

But, with the United States reeling from the Texas school massacre and paralysed over how to stop the violence, she won loud cheers and a standing ovation when she spoke about how her government cracked down on gun ownership in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.

“We knew we needed significant gun reform, and so that is what we did,” she said. “But we also knew that if we wanted genuine solutions to the issue of violent extremism online, it would take government, civil society and the tech companies themselves to change the landscape.”

Developing her theme of trying to combat online extremists such as the perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks, Ardern tied the problem to the defence of democracy.

“This imperfect but precious way that we organise ourselves, that has been created to give equal voice to the weak and to the strong, that is designed to help drive consensus – it is fragile,” Ardern said.

“For years it feels as though we have assumed that the fragility of democracy was determined by duration.

“That somehow the strength of your democracy was like a marriage; the longer you’d been in it, the more likely it was to stick. “But that takes so much for granted.”

Ardern took aim at online disinformation and called on tech companies to do more to stop the online spread of conspiracy theories.

“The time has come for social media companies and other online providers to recognise their power and to act on it,” she said.

She finished her speech with a call for kindness, and to bridge differences with others. “What we do as individuals in these spaces matters too ... we are the richer for our difference, and poorer for our division,” she said.


“Full speech: Jacinda Ardern delivers Harvard University Commencement speech” https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2022/05/full-speech-jacinda-ardern-delivers-harvard-university-commencement-speech.html

See also

Marita Vlachou “Jacinda Ardern Says New Zealand Felt 'Responsibility' To Act On Guns After Christchurch” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jacinda-ardern-gun-control-harvard-commencement_n_6290c1f4e4b05cfc269932a2