When our team gets together to choose the TIME100, we have one barometer: influence. Who shaped the year? Who stood up? Who stood out? Influence, of course, may be for good or for ill—a dichotomy never more visible than in this year’s TIME100, which includes both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. They are the poles of this list, and of this moment. The Russian dictator behind a brutal war, and his foe, the Ukrainian President, whose leadership has made him a rare heroic figure in our divisive time.
Indeed, while so many crises of recent years—from COVID-19 to climate change—have seemed like calls to collective action, it was in many ways Putin who finally, unwittingly, pulled it off. “The nations of the free world,” writes President Joe Biden in a tribute to Zelensky in this issue, “are more united, more determined, and more purposeful than at any point in recent memory.”
The war has also been a motivating force for many others who are on this year’s list: figures like Valeriy Zaluzhnyy, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; journalist Sevgil Musaieva, whose courageous team at Ukrayinska Pravda has made it a leading independent news organization in Ukraine; and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has done much to shape the response to the conflict.
Our hope is that the TIME100 list is not simply a recognition of influence but a study in how influence can be wielded. This year saw advocates for equality and human rights responding to unprecedented pressures. People like Nadine Smith, whose work in Florida elevated the voices of families and kids hurt by the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law; Syrian lawyers Mazen Darwish and Anwar Al Bunni, who made critical contributions to the first conviction of a Syrian official for crimes against humanity; Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Alex Morgan, who led the fight for equal pay in U.S. soccer—and won. “It was the biggest win of their lives,” writes tennis legend and equal-rights advocate Billie Jean King. “And something tells me they are not done yet.”
Advocates for the planet challenged us too. Reports released in the past year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—made possible by scientists such as Valérie Masson-Delmotte and Panmao Zhai, both on the list—gave the sternest warning yet that to avert catastrophe, we must change. And in a speech heard round the world, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and a voice for countries on the front lines of climate change, made clear the intersection between environmental action and equity. As World Trade Organization director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala writes, Mottley reminds us “to treat our planet, and therefore one another, with love, dignity, and care.”
This year’s TIME100 team was led by executive editor Dan Macsai, and included editors Jennifer Duggan, Merrill Fabry, Lucy Feldman, Cate Matthews, and Nadia Suleman, with design by Rich Morgan and photo editing by Dilys Ng, all of whom worked around the globe to bring the list to life. Deputy editor Sam Jacobs and staff across the newsroom provided reporting and insight throughout.
In addition to geopolitical notables, the list highlights an incredible group of entertainers and artists, whose role has taken on new importance as, after two years of pandemic, we emerge into a new phase. We’re all thinking more about how we spend our days and whom we spend them with. That may mean comparing Wordle results with faraway friends—you’ll find the game’s creator Josh Wardle on this list, with an incredible five-letter-words-only tribute from musician and filmmaker Questlove—or spending hours watching Zendaya onscreen (director Denis Villeneuve calls her “a cultural icon in the making”) or, of course, listening to Adele, who burst back onto the music scene this year. In his tribute to her, TV host James Corden describes the unique sense of solace her work offers. “It’s as if she is holding out her hand and saying, ‘I know how you feel. I’ve been there,’” he writes.
If crisis is going to unite us, we must find within ourselves that same empathy. The spectrum of leaders on this list, wielding influence in so many ways, is a reminder that we all have the option to use our powers for good.
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