Opinion: Finding more in the tank


With a standard two-week notice, the prime minister of New Zealand, 42-year-old Jacinda Ardern, proclaimed, “I no longer have enough in the tank to do it (the job) justice.” Happily, Ardern shared with her fellow citizens that she was experiencing no ailments, other than fatigue. And her five-year run in the role had been a busy one. The nation of 2 million or so fewer people than the state of Indiana accepted the news with mixed feelings. Expectedly, some were eager for leadership change, and others were sad to see her go. Some congratulated her for taking care of herself, and others scolded her for lacking the requisite determination to finish the work.

Our own nation is led by an 80-year-old president. Recently completing a barrage of health tests determining him “fit” in the view of his doctors, the man is ready to campaign for still another term in 2024. Why do some manage to persevere when others collapse? Perhaps more important, do we ask too much of ourselves and others, or too little?

Politicians leave their posts for countless reasons, although mostly because they come to realize that they are no longer likely to win reelection. Still, Ardern’s departure and the response to it points to a shifting reality in human ethic. What is our obligation to endure adversity? When should we quit to avoid burnout, stay to try to work it out, or double down and tough it out? Let us not work ourselves to death!

Still, if we are all smelling the roses, no one is left to tend them. Grit, resolve and fortitude help propel our species. We learn that we can do more than we believed. We find that our capacity is greater than expected — and we become better and stronger for it.