Little did Benazir Bhutto know, when she spoke at Harvard 33 years ago, that another female prime minister would resurrect one of her most powerful messages.
On May 26, this week, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern channeled Benazir Bhutto while also delivering the Harvard Commencement address to speak out for the need for democratic systems and informed debate.
Ardern was honored by Harvard University to address the students from the same stage offered to greats such as Winston Churchill, Angela Merkel, Steven Spielberg and once, Benazir Bhutto.
Ardern paid tribute to Benazir who delivered the 1989 Harvard Commencement address. She was the first Muslim female prime minister to be elected to such an office and the first woman to give birth in office.
“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. Ardern became the second woman to start her family while in office, a feat that was globally praised.
When Bhutto gave her commencement address in 1989, she said democracy could be “fragile,” Ardern added.
“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,” she said.
PM Ardern updated Benazir’s call for the 21st century, taking aim at online disinformation and calling on tech companies to do more to stop online conspiracy theories being spread because of their power to radicalise.