It’s been a year like no other with a devastating global pandemic, heightening racial tension, growing climate catastrophes and political upheaval. To top it all off it is also an election year for a few countries so this week we are having a closer look at the leadership options facing both New Zealand and the United States as their countries head to the polls.
The two countries have leaders that both capture the world’s attention, albeit for very different reasons and with very different agendas. Let’s take a closer look at the lives behind the cameras and what we read in the newspapers.
Let’s start with New Zealand:
Jacinda Ardern by Michelle Duff
Michelle Duff delves into Ardern’s beginnings in small-town New Zealand, discovering a nose-ringed teen fighting for equality and her own identity in a devout Mormon family. Duff tracks Ardern’s political career, from being dismissed as a ‘show pony’ to her compassion during one of New Zealand’s biggest tragedies, the Christchurch mosque terror attack of 2019. In its aftermath, Ardern has become a global icon for her strength and decisiveness while uniting a country in shock and mourning. Ardern attracted international headlines for being the second world leader to give birth while in office. But why was having a baby so meaningful, and what does it say about the continued struggle for gender equality? Has Ardern really been a transcendent leader, and what enduring mark might she leave on the political landscape? This is an engrossing and powerful exploration of one of the most intriguing political stories of our time, telling us as much about one young woman’s ascendancy as it does about the country that elected her.
Pull No Punches by Judith Collins
This is a frank account from the National Member of Parliament Judith Collins sharing the highs and lows of a political life. From her humble beginnings as the youngest daughter of Labour-voting farming parents, Judith Collins has carved a path to almost the very top of New Zealand politics. Collins grew up in rural Walton, Waikato, on a dairy farm. At the age of 10 she entered politics, running for class president. She won. After a successful career as a lawyer, Collins became the MP for Papakura in 2002, alongside fellow new recruit John Key. When Key and National won office in 2008, Collins became the Minister for Police, Corrections and Veterans. Pull No Punches is the candid story of a determined Minister at the centre of New Zealand political life and of a woman who is resilient in the face of adversity. Funny, forthright and fearless, Collins reveals what it is like to survive -and thrive- for two decades as a senior female politician.
Women, Equality, Power by Helen Clarke
Helen Clark has been a world leader for 35 years from first entering parliament in 1982 as a 31-year-old to being Prime Minister of New Zealand for nine years, to serving as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme for eight years. One of her key focuses throughout this time has been the empowerment of women and she has paved the way for other women to step up and lead. With a foreword by the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, this is a timely and important book. An analysis of Helen’s speeches shows that while the position of women has improved over time, this change is very fragile and that we need to keep working towards equality for women in many crucial areas. Women, Equality, Power also serves as a celebration of an outstanding leader who continues to strive and work for change.
And now to the United States:
Promises to Keep by Joe Biden
As a United States senator from Delaware since 1973, Joe Biden has been an intimate witness to the major events of the past four decades and a relentless actor in trying to shape recent American history. He has seen up close the tragic mistake of the Vietnam War, the Watergate and Iran-contra scandals, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a presidential impeachment, a presidential resignation, and a presidential election decided by the Supreme Court. He’s observed Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and two Bushes wrestling with the presidency; he’s traveled to war zones in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and seen firsthand the devastation of genocide. He played a vital role by standing up to Ronald Reagan’s effort to seat Judge Robert Bork on the Supreme Court, fighting for legislation that protects women against domestic violence, and galvanising America’s response (and the world’s) to Slobodan Milosevic’s genocidal march in the Balkans.
In Promises to Keep, Biden reveals what these experiences taught him about himself, his colleagues, and the institutions of government. With his customary candour, Biden movingly recounts growing up in a staunchly Catholic multigenerational household in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware; overcoming a demoralising stutter; marriage, fatherhood, and the tragic death of his wife Neilia and infant daughter Naomi; remarriage and re-forming a family with his second wife, Jill; success and failure in the Senate and on the campaign trail; two life-threatening aneurysms; his relations with fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle; and his leadership of powerful Senate committees. Through these and other recollections, Biden shows us how the guiding principles he learned early in life – the obligation to work to make people’s lives better, to honour family and faith, to get up and do the right thing no matter how hard you’ve been knocked down, to be honest and straightforward, and, above all, to keep your promises – are the foundations on which he has based his life’s work as husband, father, and public servant.
Promises to Keep is the story of a man who faced down personal challenges and tragedy to become one of our most effective leaders. It is also an intimate series of reflections from a public servant who refuses to be cynical about political leadership, and a testament to the promise of the United States.
Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump
The NY Times shared some amazing statistics recently: “Since it was released in May, the latest book in the Hunger Games series, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, has sold 1.3 million copies, a home run of a best seller by publishing’s standards. Mary L. Trump’s memoir about her uncle, Too Much and Never Enough, outsold it in its first week”. So we thought, we’d better pop it on this list for you.
Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald’s only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.
Mary Trump spent much of her childhood in her grandparents’ large, imposing house in the heart of Queens, where Donald and his four siblings grew up. She describes a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse. She explains how specific events and general family patterns created the damaged man who currently occupies the Oval Office, including the strange and harmful relationship between Fred Trump and his two oldest sons, Fred Jr. and Donald. A firsthand witness to countless holiday meals and family interactions, Mary brings an incisive wit and unexpected humour to sometimes grim, often confounding family events. She recounts in unsparing detail everything from her uncle Donald’s place in the family spotlight and Ivana’s penchant for regifting to her grandmother’s frequent injuries and illnesses and the appalling way Donald, Fred Trump’s favourite son, dismissed and derided him when he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s. Numerous pundits, armchair psychologists, and journalists have sought to parse Donald J. Trump’s lethal flaws. Mary L. Trump has the education, insight, and intimate familiarity needed to reveal what makes Donald, and the rest of her clan, tick. She alone can recount this fascinating, unnerving saga, not just because of her insider’s perspective but also because she is the only Trump willing to tell the truth about one of the world’s most powerful and dysfunctional families.
Rage by Bob Woodward
Rage goes behind the scenes like never before, with stunning new details about early national security decisions and operations and Trump’s moves as he faces a global pandemic, economic disaster and racial unrest. Woodward, the No 1 internationally bestselling author of 13 No 1 bestsellers, including Fear: Trump in the White House, shows Trump up close in his entirety before the 2020 presidential election. President Trump has said publicly that Woodward has interviewed him. What is not known is that Trump provided Woodward a window into his mind through a series of exclusive interviews. At key decision points, Rage shows how Trump’s responses to the crises of 2020 were rooted in the instincts, habits and style he developed during his first three years as president. Rage draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand witnesses, as well as participants’ notes, emails, diaries, calendars and confidential documents. Woodward obtained 25 personal letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that have not been public before. Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a ‘fantasy film’, as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet. Rage will be the foundational account of the Trump presidency, its turmoil, contradictions and risks. It is an essential document for anyone seeking an accurate inside view of the Trump years – volatile and vivid.