Time magazine has named 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg as its 2019 person of the year, making her the youngest ever recipient of the annual distinction.
Thunberg was chosen from a shortlist that included President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the anonymous whistle-blower whose complaint ultimately led to the Trump impeachment inquiry and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Rudy Giuliani and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were also considered for the honor.
The Sweden native gained attention for skipping school to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament and addressing the UN in a viral speech in which she berated heads of state for not doing enough to battle the environmental crisis.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying,” Thunberg said in part. “Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
She’s also met with the pope, sparred with Trump and inspired 4 million people to join a global climate strike on Sept. 20 in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history.
The person of the year title is representative of the influence the selected individual has (or individuals have) on news over the past year.
In explaining the selection, Time Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal, wrote, “In this moment when so many traditional institutions seem to be failing us, amid staggering inequality and social upheaval and political paralysis, we are seeing new kinds of influence take hold. It is wielded by people like Thunberg, leaders with a cause and a phone who don’t fit the old rubrics but who connect with us in ways that institutions can’t and perhaps never could.… For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is Time’s 2019 Person of the Year.”
Instead of naming runners-up, Time named winners in four additional categories. Disney CEO Bob Iger was named businessperson of the year, with Time touting the launch of Disney+ and the company’s record of $10 billion at the global box office this year. In the article about Iger, the Disney CEO, illustrated holding Baby Yoda, is asked whether he would buy the IP behind Harry Potter, Gandalf or James Bond. He simply smiles and says the company’s “not looking to buy anything right now,” before adding, “but I’ve always been a huge James Bond fan.”
Lizzo was named entertainer of the year. Rapinoe and the U.S. women’s soccer team were named athlete of the year and various “public servants,” including the whistle-blower and government officials who played a role in the impeachment proceedings, were named guardians of the year.
Last year, Time picked a group of journalists as the persons of the year, including slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., where five people were shot and killed at the newspaper’s offices in June; arrested Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, detained in Myanmar.