Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who is Your "Person of the Year"?


Every year, TIME names a "Person of the Year" and every year I think how inappropriate the title is for what they are trying to recognize.

Naturally, there will always be dissent when bestowing an award like this, but sometimes I think they purposefully choose someone who would be polarizing enough to generate "news" and sell more copies of their magazine. But the main gripe I have is that the characteristics they look for in their nominations don't match what I believe should accompany the title "Person of the Year".

From the TIME article that describes the criteria and how they voted Vladimir Putin as the winner for 2007:
"TIME's Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership—bold, earth-changing leadership."

Hold on. Is it just me, or do you think "______ of the Year" SHOULD BE something positive and reserved as a title of honor? Whether it's "Employee of the Year", "Wine of the Year", or "Athlete of the Year", I expect it to be noteworthy because he/she/it is outstanding and excellent. If I were to meet the "Person of the Year" I would want to be impressed, wowed, and inspired (not fearful of polonium in my tea).

Of course, it's a free (and media-driven) country, so TIME can do whatever they want, but they've misappropriated the popular term "Person of the Year" and changed it to mean the most-powerful-and-potentially-influential-person of the year. We are fleeced into believing that the most powerful and influential person should get the respect and admiration associated with the title "Person of the Year" (even though the fine print from TIME tries to clarify their ).

When I think of the term "Person of the Year", I expect it to be someone who should be admired and esteemed for consistently is making the world a better place. Some could argue that this year's TIME Person of the Year, Vladimir Putin, is such a person (I wouldn't, but some could).

It brings up a similar argument of whether figures like Hitler, Stalin, Arafat, and the Ayatollah Khomeini (all fellow "winners") deserve such a title. Yes, they've successfully led people. Yes, they've been influential and powerful on a global stage. Yes, they were able to rally, persuade, and build toward their vision. But does that make them a "good" leader, worthy of the widespread recognition? Effective in achieving their objective, perhaps, but not "good" in the moral sense.

I believe we're doing the general public a disservice by sneaking these guys into a category that should be reserved for the "good guys". Younger generations or less worldly people might not be able to spot the incongruity between a prestigious title and TIME's subtle definition, and may naively believe some of these figures aren't that bad (of course, good and bad are largely determined by social mores, but I think we can all agree on some of the obvious candidates).

Personally, I would be more interested in having TIME review someone who could serve as a role model or best practice in leadership. Of course, all leaders have skeletons in their closets, but give us someone who is generally doing "good" in the world for us to look up to because they're making a positive difference.

Since TIME is too caught up in the power/influence definition, I'll ask you to consider who you would nominate for the REAL meaning of a "Person of the Year" award. Someone who inspires you, impresses you, and is out there consistently doing the "right thing"? Tell us about someone you think embodies the true definition either in your life or in society.
  • Who is your "Person of the Year"? Please add a comment and share your nomination with us!
Btw, it doesn't go unnoticed that I fell prey to TIME's strategy of creating a buzz...

1 comment:

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