This post is the seventh entry in a blog series detailing the itineraries of both current and former Heads of State who participated in a Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project arranged by Meridian International Center. The entry below summarizes the IVLP itinerary of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Visitor: Prime Minister (as of October 2017) Jacinda Ardern
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Program Year: 2012
Travel Itinerary: Washington, DC; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; San Francisco, CA
When Ms. Ardern took part in the IVLP, she was serving as a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party representing Auckland Central. At that time she was concurrently serving as both the Party’s spokesperson for Employment and Youth Affairs and the Associate Spokesperson for Arts, Culture, and Heritage. Previously, she had served as a senior policy advisor to Sir Ronnie Flanagan at the Home Secretary’s Constabulary.
In March 2012, Ms. Ardern joined twenty-three other government leaders, journalists, and industry leaders for a two week long Multi-Regional Program titled “U.S. Foreign Policy: The Decision Making Process.” Throughout their U.S. program, the group looked at how U.S. foreign policy is formulated, articulated, and implemented in the U.S., they met key stakeholders, and reviewed policy priority issues in international relations.
The itinerary began in Washington, DC where the Department of State and Meridian team welcomed Ms. Ardern and her colleagues. After the opening session, the participants examined the process behind U.S. foreign policymaking with Dr. Jordan Tama, an Assistant Professor from American University’s School of International Service. Subsequent appointments over the next few days included a discussion on human rights and democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy with Dr. Mark Lagon from Georgetown University; a session on religion and politics in the 2012 presidential election at the PEW Center on Religion and Public Life; and a roundtable with officers from the Department of States’ Office of Policy Planning. Other highlights included a visit to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, discussion with a staffer from the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, and a session with the Executive Director of the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism. Prior to their departure for city-splits in Austin, Indianapolis, and Little Rock, Ms. Ardern and the group enjoyed Washington’s Cherry Blossom Festival.
Ms. Ardern and several other colleagues took part in a brief program in Austin, where they gained additional local insights into agricultural trade, foreign affairs, and refugees and immigration. While in Texas, the participants met with American Gateways, an organization that helps immigrants and asylum seekers establish a foundation in the U.S.; they spoke to a marketing coordinator for international trade at the Texas Department of Agriculture; and they examined Congress’ involvement in foreign policy making at the regional office of Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX, 10th District). Given her interest in youth affairs, a separate appointment was arranged for Ms. Ardern with a staff member from Any Baby Can‘s Nurse Family Partnership Program. The group enjoyed home hospitality and a trip to San Antonio in Dallas.
Before they could depart for San Francisco, their next stop, a series of tornadoes struck the area and kept the group grounded in Texas for a couple of additional days. Rising to the challenge, the local programmers managed to organize appointments on short notice with researchers at the Breakthrough Institute and faculty at the Texas Wesleyan School of Law. These additional meetings, combined with a final cultural activity, attendance at a “mock” longhorn cattle drive, made the extended visit to Dallas especially worthwhile.
The final program segment in California included a final evaluation session with Meridian and Department of State programming teams. Afterwards, participants enjoyed a cruise on San Francisco Bay before returning to their respective nations.
After the “U.S. Foreign Policy: The Decision Making Process” IVLP concluded, Ms. Ardern served in succession as Shadow Minister of Justice for Children, Small Business and Arts & Culture (2014); Member of the New Zealand Parliament for Mount Albert (March 2017); Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (March 2017 – August 2017); Leader of the Labour Party (August 2017 – October 2017); and Prime Minister of New Zealand (October 2017 – Present).
If you are interested in reading more about the Heads of State that have traveled on Meridian administered IVLPs throughout the years, check out the following blogs:
Meridian IVLP Alum Becomes U.N. Secretary General
UK Prime Minister is a Meridian IVLP Alumna
Norwegian Prime Minister is an IVLP Alumna
Dominican President is an IVLP Alum
Finnish President is an IVLP Alum
President of Norway is an IVLP Alumna