Commentary: Why Obama Deserved Time's Person of the Year Award

TIME's selection recognizes Obama’s extraordinary role at home and abroad.

Posted: 12/19/2012 02:49 PM EST
Barack Obama Is Time's Person of the Year

(Photo: AP Photo/Time Magazine)

For the second time, President Obama has been selected as Time magazine’s Person of the Year. It is not quite the Nobel Peace Prize, but somehow the magazine’s designation has developed a special cache. It has become an internationally renowned symbol of the person who has made an overpowering impact on the nation and the world for the year.

With those criteria, Obama seems to be the logical choice for the magazine. Having prevailed in an election that was eagerly watched around the world, the president has shown great political acumen while at the same time been a symbol of progressive leadership and steady, even-handed governing.

“We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America,” wrote Time’s editor, Rick Stengel, in the new issue. He concluded: “For finding and forging a new majority, for turning weakness into opportunity and for seeking, amid great adversity, to create a more perfect union, Barack Obama is Time’s 2012 Person of the Year.”

Obama is the fourth Black man to be named as Time's person of the year and the second African-American to receive that accolade since the magazine named its first “Man of the Year” when it selected Charles Lindbergh in 1927.

The first Black Person of the Year came in 1937, when Haile Selassie, the head of Ethiopia, was on the cover. In 1963, the magazine selected Martin Luther King Jr. for his accomplishments as the preeminent civil rights leader. In 1977, Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt was selected. And, of course, the magazine picked Barack Obama after his victory in 2008.

Obama’s victory four years ago was an achievement of historic proportion. But his reelection was an incredible feat. Obama is the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win more than 50 percent of the vote in consecutive elections and the first president of either party since 1940 to win re-election with an unemployment rate above 7.5 percent.

More than that, Obama, whose health care reform has become a bedrock of American governance, has continued to inspire a nation. The president has helped develop a new political order not just in terms of the demographics of the coalition that elected him, but in the advocacy of positions that have won voters’ allegiance.

And so, it was a fitting selection for Time magazine, which looked at the list of potential selections and reached the only conclusion that was correct and inspired.

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