Ten people who could change the world: it sounds like a bold claim. And hasn’t the currency of that word “change” been devalued after a US election during which it was promised by everyone? But equally, at a time of unprecedented financial turmoil and when the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting uncertainly, can anyone doubt that change, and specifically, new leadership, is what we need most?
We offer a strongly political list of leaders of varying ethnicity and continent, people who will or who already are making changes in the United States, Britain, South Africa and Iran, whether it be bringing the prospect of hope for genuine multiparty democracy to a new nation, vitality to a moribund political movement or the chance for better dialogue in the Middle East, or forcing governments to keep their promises on the environment.
“Women hold up half the sky,” said Chairman Mao, and his words (quoted in one of our profiles) are also borne out by our inclusion of female leaders from India, China and Europe breaking ground in science, sport, the arts and education. Above all, their example and their success point towards a future when the question of whether a leader is male or female simply should not arise. Utopian, perhaps? But no one said that change would happen quickly.
The last time the New Statesman compiled such a list, in 2005, we had the foresight to pick Barack Obama. Let modesty intrude and suggest that a modicum of luck was involved then, too; let us also have the grace to admit that, in fact, he exceeded our predictions. Yet, whatever the next US president does, his very election was a change in itself, and offers inspiration for all those who aim to improve the world in big ways or small. The NS will now make this an annual feature. We look forward to reporting back to you in 2010.
How Our 10 Choices from 2005 have Fared
Nick Stokeld and Cassie Metcalf-Slovo
Mo Ibrahim The mobile-phone mogul has now launched a foundation that awards an annual $5m Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
Anton Zeilinger The physicist, renowned for his work on quantum optics and entanglement, became the inaugural winner of the Isaac Newton Medal from the Institute of Physics (UK) last year.
Sania Mirza The 22-year-old Indian tennis pro formed a successful doubles partnership with an Israeli, further infuriating Muslim critics already upset by her “revealing” sportswear.
Victoria Hale Her company OneWorld Health is close to completing clinical trials on its first drug for visceral leishmaniasis. Awarded a $42.6m grant from the Gates Foundation, OneWorld Health has chosen malaria as its next target.
Samira Makhmalbaf Last year, the Iranian director’s Asbe du-pa (or “Two-Legged Horse”) won the Jury Special Prize at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
Brewster Kahle The internet entrepreneur’s goal of providing “universal access to all knowledge” by creating a huge digital library suffered a setback when his challenge to the constitutionality of US copyright laws failed.
Aubrey Meyer The environmentalist is still running his think tank, the Global Commons Institute. He was nominated in 2008 for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kierra Box In 2006 the young campaigner was awarded a Sheila McKechnie Foundation award for her work on social inclusion. Still only 23, Kierra is a patron of the National Youth Agency.
The Emir of Qatar Under the enlightened reforms of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the first Roman Catholic church in Qatar was dedicated in 2008. He also mediated a peace deal between Lebanon’s Shia, Sunni and Christian factions.
Barack Obama In 2005, we thought Obama might be running mate to Hillary Clinton in last year’s elections. As we know, he did even better . . .