New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to Speak at Harvard Class of ’22 Commencement


UPDATED: February 15, 2022 at 12:43 a.m.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will speak at Harvard’s 369th Commencement ceremony this spring.

Ardern is set to address Harvard’s Class of 2022 at the first of two Commencement ceremonies the school will hold in May. She will speak to graduates on May 26 — three days before the school will hold a second ceremony for the Classes of 2020 and 2021, which graduated online due to the pandemic.

The University confirmed that Ardern will speak on Monday after Stuff, the largest news website in New Zealand, first reported the pick on Sunday.


University President Lawrence S. Bacow lauded Ardern in a press release Monday.


“From climate change and gender equality to COVID-19, she has modeled compassionate leadership that has brought together empathy and science-based solutions to address the most challenging issues of our time,” he said. “I very much look forward to her address.”

The speaker for the May 29 ceremony has not yet been announced.

Ardern announced earlier this month she would travel to the United States to lead a trade delegation in the spring.

Ardern became leader of the New Zealand Labour Party in August 2017. Two months later, at age 37, she became the country’s youngest prime minister in more than a century.

Outside of New Zealand, Ardern has received numerous honors: She has been named to Fortune’s 2021 World’s 50 Greatest Leaders list, Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list twice, and Forbes Magazine’s list of most powerful women repeatedly.

When she takes the podium in Harvard’s Tercentenary Theater in May, Ardern will be the first in-person Commencement speaker in two years. She will be the 17th sitting world leader to deliver a Harvard Commencement address. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel served as the school’s last in-person Commencement speaker in 2019.

Last year, Ruth J. Simmons, the president of Prairie View A&M University, spoke during the virtual ceremony. Simmons, who led Brown University from 2001 to 2012, was the first Black president of an Ivy League institution. Former Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron spoke at the University’s 2020 virtual ceremony.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.