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8 January 2009

The ten people who could change the world

By Aloysius McDowell

Why does change matter so much to us? Why has it become the defining word in the contemporary political lexicon? Barack Obama was the candidate of change and renewal in the US. David Cameron is attempting to position himself similarly in Britain. Gordon Brown was also once meant to be the candidate of change when he first became Prime Minister: a change from Tony Blair, from the era of new Labour cant, spin and celebrity politics. Now, he presents himself rather differently – as someone familiar and reassuring in a time of profound convulsion and upheaval, less a figure of renewal than one of continuity.

At the start of a new year many of us long to become engines of self-reinvention, to start again, to live differently. In short: we wish to change. But it is less change for its own sake that we seek than change for the better: the old human yearning for progress and opportunity.

Starting on page 23, we profile ten people from contrasting worlds of politics, science, business, the arts and sport whom we feel have the potential, through their good work and influence, to change the world for the better. From the social activist providing dispossessed women in Bangladesh with the opportunity for education to the physicist doing pioneering work in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, our ten are united in their determination to lead and inspire.

When in 2005 we did something similar, Barack Obama was one of our ten picks. He has already lived up to our expectations by ousting a despised Republican administration to become the first black man to be elected as US president. Now, very soon, he must prove himself in the highest office, at a time of world crisis, and show that his actions can be as elevated and ennobling as his words.

Will any of our ten picks this time rise so fast and succeed as rapidly as Obama? It’s unlikely, but let’s see.