2009’s Time Person of the Year is Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, which for once is not likely to be a controversial choice. Bernanke was chosen as Time Person of the Year for his influence in the struggles to heal the American economy.
Other contenders included President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, General Stanley McChrystal, ‘the Chinese worker’, Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter and Olympic gold medalist, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Barack Obama was Time Person of the Year for 2008. The possible selection of Nancy Pelosi stirred a little bit of a controversy, especially on conservative talk radio.
Oddly, some other obvious choices, such as Sarah Palin, the ‘tea party protester’, ‘twitter’, and the LCROSS lunar probe (devices have been chosen in the past) were not actively considered.
Being chosen as Time Person of the Year is not necessarily an honor. Adolf Hitler was chosen to adorn the Time Magazine cover for 1938. Joseph Stalin was ‘Time Man of the Year’ in 1939 and 1942. The Ayatollah Khomeini was chosen in 1979.
Nor is the Time Person of the Year necessarily a single person. ‘US Scientists’ were chosen for 1960. ‘Generation 25 and Under’ were chosen for 1966. The Apollo 8 astronauts were chosen in 1968. ‘Middle Americans’ were chosen for 1969. ‘American Women’ were chosen for 1975. ‘The Peacemakers’ were chosen in 1993, ‘The Whistleblowers’ in 2002, ‘The American Soldier’ in 2003, ‘Good Samaritans’ in 2005, ‘You’ in 2006.
Time Person of the Year is sometimes not even a person. ‘The Computer’ was chosen in 1982 and ‘The Endangered Earth’ in 1988.
US Presidents have been a popular choice for Time Person of the Year. All since Franklin Roosevelt, with the exception of Gerald Ford, have been a Time Person of the Year, sometimes twice.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air suggests that Ben Bernanke may not have been all that suitable as ‘Time Person of the Year’ since most of his heavy lifting to save the economy was done last year and was somewhat controversial as well. But one suspects that Ben Bernanke is a more symbolic than personal choice, representing all efforts, no matter how much they succeeded or failed, to bring back economic growth and job creation.
Morrissey also cheekily suggests that the fact the Barack Obama did not make even the top five in consideration for Time Person of the Year means the Time is giving him “something less than a ‘good, solid B-plus.'” That depends, one supposes, whether Time is grading on a curve or not.
Sources: Person of the Year 2009, Ben Bernanke, Michael Grunwald, Time, December 16th, 2009
Person of the Year Complete list 1927-2006, Time Magazine
Time’s Person of the Year … not Obama?, Ed Morrissey, Hot Air, December 16th, 2009