One of my favorite stories from TIME’s history goes like this: As 1927 came to an end, the editors seized the chance to correct a serious oversight. They had failed to put Charles Lindbergh on the cover to recognize the 25-year-old’s remarkable solo flight over the Atlantic, which he’d completed that May. On what was otherwise a slow news week, they gave themselves a mulligan, and for the first issue of 1928 named Lindbergh “Man of the Year,” creating what became one of the most iconic franchises in journalism—what we know today as TIME Person of the Year.
Lindbergh remained the youngest individual to receive the recognition until 2019, when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg was named Person of the Year. These two milestones remind us that leadership has no age requirement. We’ve known that to be true since TIME’s founding a century ago, by a pair of 20-somethings no less. I suspect that is something our readers believe as well: as I wrote in April, nearly half of you are under the age of 35.
That is why I’m so pleased that over the past nine years we’ve gotten the chance to introduce you all to an impressive group of extraordinary young people via TIME’s Next Generation Leaders list, made possible by our partners at Rolex. “To spend time with these individuals is proof of what is possible and what leadership in its multitude of inspiring forms can look like today,” says senior editor Emma Barker, who, with senior editor Dayana Sarkisova, led the latest installment of the project.
On the cover, we feature Florence Pugh, a 27-year-old British actor, whom we meet on the cusp of a breakout year with upcoming roles in two highly anticipated movies: Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two. This is an extraordinary moment for Pugh, a performer who is starting to climb the peaks of her profession. “Despite her youth, she has a drive and assurance,” says Villeneuve. “You feel you’re working with someone who can absolutely go anywhere and do anything emotionally in the most subtle and precise way. She’s a raw diamond.”
The Next Generation Leaders list is, as always, a global undertaking, with TIME’s reporters and editors scouting what leadership looks like across the planet. In this issue, we spend time with rising stars in places including South Korea, Argentina, and Australia, where Melanie Perkins, a co-founder of tech platform Canva, recently pledged to give away a significant share of equity in her giant startup company. “It was a really easy decision,” she says. “How can you do the most good you can do with billions of dollars?”
Perkins’ drive to improve the world is shared by Brazil’s Rene Silva, who, as an 11-year-old, persuaded teachers at his school to let him join the student newspaper. That effort set him on a journey to launch a paper of his own, covering an entire favela. Today, Silva leads Voz das Comunidades, which is dedicated to telling and promoting stories that are frequently overlooked in his country’s media.
Pugh, Perkins, and Silva join impressive leaders like activist Sage Lenier, who is leading a solutions-focused approach to the climate fight, and Ivorian American chef Roze Traore, whose journey through the restaurant world and exploration of family history has led him to the Ivory Coast, to create healing and community through food. Together, this class joins the more than 175 individuals recognized as TIME Next Generation Leaders since 2014. At a moment when society’s problems can seem insurmountable, it is so inspiring to see these young leaders bring new perspectives and share fresh ideas.
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