As we assembled our second annual TIME100 Next list—an expansion of our flagship TIME100 franchise that highlights 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future—what struck me most was how its members are coping with crisis.
Amid a global pandemic, deepening inequality, systemic injustice and existential questions about truth, democracy and the planet itself, the individuals on this year’s list provide “clear-eyed hope,” as actor, composer and director Lin-Manuel Miranda puts it in his tribute to poet and TIME100 Next honoree Amanda Gorman. They are doctors and scientists fighting COVID-19, advocates pushing for equality and justice, journalists standing up for truth, and artists sharing their visions of present and future.
As with Miranda and Gorman, many of the TIME100 Next profiles are written by TIME100 alumni—a testament to the ways that influence flows across generations. One example: Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently turned 80, calls his fellow immunologist and National Institutes of Health colleague Kizzmekia Corbett, 35, “a rising star” whose work—which was key to the development of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19—“will have a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years.”
Equally powerful is the influence flowing between these emerging leaders themselves. Greta Thunberg, 18, TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year, writes about 24-year-old Uganda-based Vanessa Nakate, whose Rise Up movement focuses on the disproportionate impact of climate change on the African continent and the Global South. “In this moment of intersecting crises—from COVID-19 to racial injustice, from ecological problems to economic inequality—Vanessa continues to teach a most critical lesson,” Thunberg writes. “She reminds us that while we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat.”
Although recognizing the leaders of tomorrow lends itself to a younger group, we intentionally have no age cap, an acknowledgment that ascents can begin at any age. The youngest person on this list, for example, is 16-year-old entertainer Charli D’Amelio, who counts more than 100 million followers on TikTok. Among the eldest is 51-year-old Raphael Warnock, a Democratic Senator from Georgia, whose recent election represents “the dawn of a new South,” writes Rev. Bernice A. King, the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
“Everyone on this list is poised to make history,” says Dan Macsai, editorial director of the TIME100. “And in fact, many already have.” Indeed, when we told Jessica Byrd, who has helped shape the movement for electoral justice, that she was going to be included on this year’s TIME100 Next, she shared that she was “very, very moved” to receive another recognition from TIME—the first being in 2015 when, at a challenging moment in her life, she was named to a list of rising Black leaders. Two months after that, “catapulted by the public visibility and support for my work through that list,” Byrd says she “felt the wind at my back” and started her firm Three Point Strategies, which went on to work with such clients as Stacey Abrams and the Movement for Black Lives. “And the rest, as they say, is history.”