New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern paid homage to the late Benazir Bhutto, the first and only woman prime minister of Pakistan, during her Harvard University Commencement address on Thursday, echoing Bhutto’s caution about the fragile nature of democracy.
New Zealand’s premier took the stage at Harvard University on Thursday to speak to graduates. While she appreciated some of her country’s people being a part of the ceremony as graduating students, she spoke more about her “connection” to the late Benazir.
“I met Benazir Bhutto in Geneva in June of 2007. We both attended a conference that drew together progressive parties from around the world. Seven months later she was assassinated,” Ardern said in her commencement address.
“There will be opinions and differing perspectives written about all of us as political leaders,” she added. “Two things that history will not contest about Benazir Bhutto. She was the first Muslim female Prime Minister elected in an Islamic country when a woman in power was a rare thing.”
“She was also the first to give birth in office,” the premier continued. “The second and only other leader to have given birth in office almost 30 years later, was me.”
Ardern said her daughter, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, was born on June 21, 2018, Benazir Bhutto’s birthday.
‘Democracy can be fragile’
“The path she carved as a woman feels as relevant today as it was decades ago, and so too is the message she shared here, in this place,” Ardern said about Bhutto’s own 1989 commencement address at Harvard entitled “Democratic nations must unite.”
“She said part way through her speech in 1989 the following: ‘We must realize that democracy can be fragile’,” Ardern said. “Now I read those words as I sat in my office in Wellington, New Zealand, a world away from Pakistan. And while the reasons that gave rise for her words then were vastly different, they still ring true.”
“Democracy can be fragile. This imperfect but precious way that we organize 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.”
Bhutto, the “daughter of Pakistan,” was twice elected prime minister and was killed on December 27, 2007, in a combined shooting and bombing attack at a rally in Rawalpindi.
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