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The Number One: Volodymyr Zelensky and ‘the spirit of Ukraine’ named Time’s Person of the Year

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“‘For proving that courage can be as contagious as fear, for stirring people and nations to come together in defense of freedom, for reminding the world of the fragility of democracy — and of peace — Volodymyr Zelensky and the spirit of Ukraine are TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year.’”

That was Time editor in chief Edward Felsenthal explaining why the publication has named the Ukrainian leader and his people as 2022’s “Person of the Year,” an annual honorific that Time gives to the person or group of people who “most influenced the events of the past 12 months, for good or for ill.” 

This year’s 10 finalists also included Tesla
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CEO Elon Musk (who took the title last year, and has remained a news driver with this Twitter takeover this year), U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (whom the U.S. has “leaned on” to interpret the telltale signs of a recession) and Florida governor (and possible 2024 GOP presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis.

In fact, some of these finalists were also recently featured in the inaugural MarketWatch 50 list of the investors, CEOs, policy makers, crypto players and influencers who are impacting markets and your money this year.

But Felsenthal wrote that Zelensky was “the most clear-cut” choice for “Person of the Year” in recent memory, because he “galvanized the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades” following the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine led by President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 25.

The Time editor notes how Zelensky became a household name and international icon this year for staying in his country throughout the invasion, and rallying support on social media by giving daily speeches remotely. Some 141 countries in the United Nations condemned the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. And almost 1,000 companies, including giants like McDonald’s
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and Starbucks
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pulled out of Russia in response. The blue and gold Ukrainian flag became a familiar site on social media, as well, as users and accounts showed their support for Ukraine. 

The “Person of the Year” report notes that Zelensky has also drawn his share of criticism, however — including from his fellow Ukrainians —for downplaying the threat of invasion before the Russian bombs first fell. And some critics have called his charm offensive via fashion photo shoots and virtual Grammy Awards appearances and the like somewhat out-of-touch with the human casualties of the war in Ukraine.

“Later we will be judged,” Zelensky told Time reporter Simon Shuster in an accompanying interview. But in the meantime, he says, “I have not finished this great, important action for our country. Not yet.”

Apart from Musk, DeSantis and Yellen, the other “Person of the Year” finalists included Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney for her work on the Jan. 6 committee and her vow to do “whatever it takes” to keep former President Donald Trump out of the Oval Office in the next election.

Amazon
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founder Jeff Bezos’ ex MacKenzie Scott also made the list for her historic philanthropy, donating almost $2 billion to 343 organizations focused on the support of underserved communities in this year alone.

And the U.S. Supreme Court was given a nod for its historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end almost 50 years of constitutional precedent that protected abortion rights for American women, along with swearing in its first Black female justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the bench.

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