It’s that time of year again. Revelers are hanging Christmas lights, Congress is panicking about the budget, (that small “fiscal cliff” problem), and TIME Magazine is in search of its “Person Of The Year.” This annual designation is meant to acknowledge “the person [who has] most influenced the news this year for better or worse,” and always generates buzz of who is deserving of the title. The winner can also be a group or concept, ("The Good Samaritans" were honored in 2005, and "Endangered Earth" was given the title in 1988.) This year’s list of official contenders includes a handful of unequivocally worthy recipients; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rewritten the rules of diplomacy, and Governor Chris Christie set aside partisanship for the sake of his state during the Sandy crisis.
And yet, there were a handful of glaring omissions from the list of potentials. While Felix Baumgartner’s descent from space was exciting (if not dizzying) to watch, and Psy’s “Gagnam Style” may, in fact, be this generation’s Macarena, shouldn’t Twitter get a shout-out for changing the way we communicate? How about Cory Booker, for turning the concept of hands-on leadership on its head? Here are five names that should be on the list of nominees, but didn’t make the cut:
1. Robin Roberts
Though Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts has had a trying 2012, she has become the public face of resilience during her battle with myelodysplastic syndrome. Americans rarely talk about being sick; childhood cancer is spoken about in hushed tones, though it is nothing short of an epidemic, and there are too few famous faces advocating for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. Roberts’ open dialogue with the American public about her experience will help raise awareness for myelodysplastic syndrome, and remind society that we must invest in science for more answers and cures.
While Twitter users have been sharing spurts of information on the platform for the past six years, 2012 should be dubbed “the year of 140 characters” for the company’s profound impact on human communication. The site proved itself time and again in 2012, whether serving as the PR battleground between Israel and Hamas, or taking the pulse of the nation during the U.S. elections. Even Pope Benedict has joined in on the tweeting, using the handle @Pontifex and hashtag #AskPontifex to reach Catholics worldwide. The best part about Twitter? When something big happens, anyone can weigh in.
An out-of-season typhoon slams into the Philippines. An ongoing drought creates Dust Bowl-like conditions in the middle of the country, and parts of New York City are submerged because of a walloping 100-year storm. All the while, the polar ice caps are melting faster than ever. Sound like a box-office horror? All of these events have taken place this past fall, due to unrestrained climate change. This slow-moving crisis has used 2012 to show us what it’s capable of, which will hopefully jolt lawmakers and ordinary citizens into action.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport” says Cory Booker, and he isn’t kidding. Over this past year, the Mayor of Newark has raced into a house fire to rescue a neighbor, opened up his home to constituents in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, volunteered to live on food stamps for a week, and run a city that has become undoubtedly safer under his leadership. Whether he is communicating with Newark residents over Twitter or humbly shoveling snow-filled sidewalks after a storm, Booker embodies what it means to be a 21st century leader.
5. Gun Violence
Between the Trayvon Martin shooting, the massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and the Aurora, Colorado tragedy, Americans spent another year stunned by gun violence. These stories, among the biggest headlines of 2012, once again highlighted the need for effective regulation. Moreover, the dialogue on this issue has become wildly distorted, as evidenced by Governor Romney’s attack on single parents for the problem of gun violence during the second presidential debate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of TIME’s Person Of The Year nominees, has been among the most vocal leaders acknowledging the need for legislation: “Soothing words are nice,” said the mayor in the wake of the Colorado shooting, “but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”