Man of the Year

Every year since 1927, Time magazine has named a “Man (now Person) of the Year.” The award is supposed to go to the person who made the most difference in the preceding year, for good or ill. In recent years, the magazine has sometimes wimped out, choosing not a person but a category of people: “the American Soldier,” or “the Whistleblowers.”
This year, Time’s sister company CNN is doing a one-hour special on the Person of the Year award. It will be on at 8:00 tonight, eastern time. You can read about it here; I’m not certain, but it looks as though they may announce the winner at the end of the show.
I think I’ve mentioned before that a few weeks ago, I was in New York to tape a segment for this show. Five or six web-based people offered and discussed possible candidates for the award. Our segment will be six minutes or so of the show. It, and the show, are hosted by Soledad O’Brien, who is a complete doll. The experience was like being invited to a party at the home of an incredibly gracious hostess.
All of us on the panel realized when we started thinking about it that this was a tough year to pick a winner. The dominant event, and the culmination of many other stories over the course of the year, was the Democrats’ takeover of Congress. But it’s hard to identify a single person with that event. There was some support for Nancy Pelosi, which is fair enough. But I don’t think she really had much to do with it. I said that the single person who probably contributed more to November’s results than any other was Mark Foley, but that suggestion didn’t go over too well.
Some of the Democrats in the group–that would be everyone except me, I think–liked the idea of a collective award, i.e., “the American Voter.” Ugh; still, it’s possible.
In most years, I think the most notable achievements are not in politics. Most years, someone does something in science, business or the arts that will be seen, in the future, as more important than the transitory political issues of the day. The problem is that in many cases, it takes a long time before the importance of those scientific or cultural achievements is understood. I offered the guys who invented YouTube as candidates; they are not exactly household names, but the impact of their innovation was one of the interesting stories of 2006 and had immediate impact. I note, too, that CNN has put the YouTube guys on what looks like their list of finalists.
Based on events in the weeks that have gone by since we taped the segment, I might now vote for Ahmadinejad.
Anyway, if you’re interested, the CNN show is on at 8:00 tonight, eastern. We don’t have a guest on our radio show today, so maybe we’ll talk about the Person of the Year, too. You can listen on the web here.
To discuss this post, or offer your own ideas for Person of the Year, go here.

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