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Letters: Dec. 31, 1999

7 minute read


“The Person of the Century should be someone who held true to his beliefs and was prepared to fight for them.” PAULA MOUNTAIN-AGAR York, England

This has been the century in which the voices of ordinary people were widely heard for the first time, the century of mass suffrage but also the century of mass suffering. Ordinary people died in the trenches, in a deadly influenza epidemic, went hungry in the Great Depression, brought Adolf Hitler to power and died in the death camps. The Person of the Century should be the common man, the unsung hero who encompasses all our strivings and failings, our successes and disasters, our greatness and pettiness. He is us. ALBERT GOMPERTS Antwerp

In 1950 TIME named Winston Churchill “Man of the Half-Century,” saying “he launched the lifeboats” that saved liberty. You cited Churchill’s unmatched career: 50 years of international prominence, the only person to hold high office in both World Wars, the only one to write of his experiences in language that will live as long as words are read. As the first person to proclaim publicly the Soviet threat, Churchill became the architect of the century’s great triumph over it. The twin victories over two great evils are this century’s dominating achievements. Great movements still in progress–civil rights, gender equality, democratization, market capitalism–would be impossible, or at least retarded, in fascist or Marxist societies. It is beyond imagination what life would be like today had Churchill not lived, acted, written and spoken as he did. RICHARD M. LANGWORTH PRESIDENT Churchill Center Washington

The entrepreneur is the person of the Century. We are entering our longest peaceful period of economic expansion since World War II. Entrepreneurs have created tens of millions of jobs for the world through their innovation and hard work. MURIEL SIEBERT, CEO Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc. New York City

The chief architect of the victory of World War II was Winston Churchill. The only Allied leader with military experience in the field as well as experience in government, he was also a superb communicator. Perhaps his finest contribution was his matchless power as a speaker, e.g., his stunning statement at Fulton, Mo., about “the Iron Curtain” that Joseph Stalin was dropping across Eastern Europe, and the unforgettable, even more crucial speech he made before the expected Nazi invasion of Britain: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” CHARLTON HESTON Beverly Hills, Calif.

Black people came out of the 19th century fleeing the shackles of slavery. They entered the 20th century to face discrimination, stereotyping, more domination and a sense of uncertainty. They go into the 21st century with the mother continent of Africa as turmoil stricken as ever. But blacks have the conviction that the battle must go on. The black is the Person of the Century with a tale of struggle and survival yet to be matched in the course of human history. YAHAYA MAIBE London

Henry Ford had a vision: he wanted to make an automobile that anyone could afford, “a car for the great multitudes.” Ford succeeded in this, setting up the first assembly line so that his cars could be built quickly and cheaply. And Ford created millions of jobs. He helped make the U.S. the land of opportunity. MICHAEL NONNI Arlington, Mass.

Franklin Roosevelt was Hitler’s most feared and hated enemy. Contemporary Jews knew they never had a better friend or a more sympathetic President than F.D.R. He never lost the essential focus: Hitler had to be destroyed, his armies had to surrender unconditionally. Only then could the genocide be stopped and liberation secured. It was Hitler and his Nazi thugs who directed the Holocaust. It was the America Roosevelt led that destroyed them. As Simon Wiesenthal wrote, “At the time I was a prisoner in Mauthausen, my last concentration camp, the name Franklin Roosevelt was the hope for freedom for me and my fellow prisoners. For those of us who were liberated by the U.S. Army in May 1945, Franklin Roosevelt is truly the Man of the Century.” WILLIAM J. VANDEN HEUVEL, PRESIDENT Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute New York City

Physician and philosopher Albert Schweitzer was the conscience of our age. He worked as a humble doctor treating thousands in equatorial Africa for 35 years. He was the Mother Teresa of the first half of this century. BETTY JANE BROWN Rio Rancho, N.M.

Franklin Roosevelt is clearly the person of the century. His social and economic policies laid the groundwork for the great postwar prosperity that exists even today and for the progress in justice for all Americans. His policies were not always successful (whose are?) and he made many mistakes (who hasn’t?). He was not always to be trusted (who is?) and his personal life left something to be desired. Yet his confident optimism, particularly in his famous fireside chats, and his faith in the U.S. and its people sustained the country through bad times. ANDREW M. GREELEY Chicago

The 20th century has been one of great progress. Millions were able to watch men land on the moon. Unfortunately, it was also a century where evil challenged good with two world wars, constant conflicts and the killing of innocent people. An evildoer must be favored for selection as the Person of this Century. It boils down to either Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. FINBARR SLATTERY Killarney, Ireland

I and 100 other members of Congress vote for the G.I., who represents the price our nation has paid to protect freedom in the world. Give these brave men and women the credit and recognition they deserve for shaping our world and making history, and name the American G.I. as the Person of the Century. ROBIN HAYES, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE 8th District, North Carolina Washington

The most influential people in this century were surely the inventors of the computer; it has forever changed the world as we know it. RAY HATTINGH Howard Place, South Africa

Adolf Hitler is the obvious choice for the single individual who had the most profound impact on the events of the past 100 years. His acts had a dramatic impact on the entire world. Everything from the Holocaust, the cold war, the invention and ultimate use of atomic weapons can be traced back to Hitler. TED FLORENCE North York, Ont.

My candidate is Albert Einstein. His name is synonymous with genius. Using only his innate intelligence, he developed theories that changed almost every aspect of modern life: science, mathematics, philosophy, even religion. Probably no other person through the ages has had such a profound (and positive) influence on the course of human history. ROB SIDDALL Toronto

You should select pope John Paul II. He has brought hope and transmitted the values of peace, liberty and faith to the world. He broke down communism in Europe. He is the greatest leader. JORGE EDUARDO OLIVARES Guadalajara, Mexico


You should choose the Beatles. This phenomenally popular 1960s group left its mark in the world of pop as one of the greatest bands ever. The Beatles were a leader of the musical revolution. Their music and personality will never be replicated. John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr should be immortalized. ANASTACIA HOWLEY Havertown, Pa.

I cast my vote for Elvis Presley. the late John Lennon reportedly said: “Without Elvis there would be no Beatles.” FRANCES M. GLOSTER Springfield, Mass.

My vote goes to Oprah Winfrey. JOAN MARIE PILOT Chicago

I nominate “Rosie the Riveter.” She epitomizes the independent, working-class woman. MEG RYAN Bryn Mawr, Pa.

I asked my mother who should be the person of the century. I was surprised by her answer: “The man who invented the washing machine.” You know, she’s right. ROBERT PETERSON Woodland Hills, Calif.

A heroically influential person of the 20th century was Andy Warhol. He took everyday culture and turned it into art. Warhol’s work was original. It gives the observer the feeling that the person who made it wasn’t like everyone else, that this artist was an individual. AMANDA MICHELS Wexford, Pa.

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