See Who Made The List of 100 Most Influential People

20 Apr, 2017

Our annual list of the 100 Most Influential People explores the intersection of accomplishment and renown. As in years past, this year’s list includes Presidents and Prime Ministers, CEOs and celebrities — but they are joined by others of less fame but great force, in the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve.

Some years the list has the feel of a loose, lively dinner party, people who mostly don’t know one another but would get along if they did. This year is a bit more complicated. These past 12 months have sharpened our edges as political debates in the U.S. and Europe, the Middle East and Asia, turned jagged and primal and seem almost perfectly designed to divide us more deeply. The list includes active opponents—not only U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un but also the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte and his nemesis Senator Leila de Lima, whose denunciation of Duterte’s bloody crusade against drug dealers has landed her in prison. And there are several people on the list whose influence is the subject of heated debate, from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to FBI Director James Comey to White House adviser Stephen Bannon. Each has champions and critics; all are shap­ing the course of this turbulent year.

In divisive times, it’s tempting to nestle in a comfort zone, surrounded by people who look like us, think like us, pray like us, vote like us. Yet many of the men and women on this year’s list are calling us out, using the technologies that connect us to expand how we see the world. The youngest, Gavin Grimm, 17, took the risk of speaking out about the most impossibly personal subject — what bathrooms we use — in order to assert the rights of trans­gender people all the way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the oldest, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 87, used her platform to create a new one, iCivics, to teach students to become active citizens; it reaches half of all middle school social-studies classrooms in the country.

Every year new themes emerge. This year, I am struck by how many people on the list — from Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson to singer Demi Lovato to Broadway star Ben Platt — have made mental health a special focus of their work. Likewise, the ongoing refugee crisis has inspired heroic efforts by everyone from Raed Saleh, leader of the Syrian White Helmets, to Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the Tent initiative, to actor Riz Ahmed and singer Alicia Keys.

Some challenges are best explained by those who have shared them, so we asked Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Obama, to write about Trump’s chief, Reince Priebus. New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English writes on British PM Theresa May; and a former U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, writes about current Defense Secretary James Mattis.

In making the list, we seek counsel from the TIME 100 alumni, many of whom contributed to this issue. Common writes on Chance the Rapper, who was inspired by a phone message Common left him long ago. Tina Fey offers a tribute to Donald Glover; Meryl Streep to Viola Davis; and Sheryl Sandberg to Melinda Gates. In a typical TIME 100 chain reaction, author Colson Whitehead is on the list for his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Underground Railroad, which is being adapted for TV by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, who is both on the list and author of the profile of filmmaker Jordan Peele.

This issue was designed by Carrie Gee, with photo direction by Tara Johnson. Miles Aldridge shot the five cover portraits. The project was overseen for the first time by assistant managing editor Dan Macsai. “It’s not every day you’re working with writers like Taylor Swift, Tim Cook and Mikhail Gorbachev,” he says. “But that’s what’s so great about the TIME 100. It’s not just a list of the world’s most influential people — it’s a conversation among them.”


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