WWhen our team comes together to select the TIME100 we only have one barometer: Influence. What was the key to shaping this year? Who stood out? Who stood out in this instance? Influence, of course, may be for good or for ill—a dichotomy never more visible than in this year’s TIME100, which includes both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. They represent the top two poles on this list. Russian dictator, who led a terrible war in Ukraine, and his adversary, the Ukrainian President. His leadership is rare among divisive times.
Indeed, while so many crises of recent years—from COVID-19 to climate change—have seemed like calls to collective action, it was in many ways Putin who finally, unwittingly, pulled it off. “The nations of the free world,” writes President Joe Biden in a tribute to Zelensky in this issue, “are more united, more determined, and more purposeful than at any point in recent memory.”
The war has also been a motivating force for many others who are on this year’s list: figures like Valeriy Zaluzhnyy, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; journalist Sevgil Musaieva, whose courageous team at Ukrayinska Pravda has made it a leading independent news organization in Ukraine; and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has done much to shape the response to the conflict.
We hope that TIME100 will not only be a list of influential people, but also a tool to show how power can be used. Advocates for equality and human right responded to unimaginable pressures this year. People like Nadine Smith, whose work in Florida elevated the voices of families and kids hurt by the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law; Syrian lawyers Mazen Darwish and Anwar Al Bunni, who made critical contributions to the first conviction of a Syrian official for crimes against humanity; Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Alex Morgan, who led the fight for equal pay in U.S. soccer—and won. “It was the biggest win of their lives,” writes tennis legend and equal-rights advocate Billie Jean King. “And something tells me they are not done yet.”
We were also challenged by advocates for the planet. Reports released in the past year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—made possible by scientists such as Valérie Masson-Delmotte and Panmao Zhai, both on the list—gave the sternest warning yet that to avert catastrophe, we must change. Mia Mottley was the Prime Minister of Barbados, and spoke out for the countries at the forefront of climate change. As World Trade Organization director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala writes, Mottley reminds us “to treat our planet, and therefore one another, with love, dignity, and care.”
This year’s TIME100 team was led by executive editor Dan Macsai, and included editors Jennifer Duggan, Merrill Fabry, Lucy Feldman, Cate Matthews, and Nadia Suleman, with design by Rich Morgan and photo editing by Dilys Ng, all of whom worked around the globe to bring the list to life. Sam Jacobs as deputy editor and the staff of the newsroom offered insight and reporting all through.
The list includes geopolitical figures, but it also highlights a remarkable group of artists and entertainers, whose roles have taken on greater importance after the pandemic. We’re all thinking more about how we spend our days and whom we spend them with. That may mean comparing Wordle results with faraway friends—you’ll find the game’s creator Josh Wardle on this list, with an incredible five-letter-words-only tribute from musician and filmmaker Questlove—or spending hours watching Zendaya onscreen (director Denis Villeneuve calls her “a cultural icon in the making”) or, of course, listening to Adele, who burst back onto the music scene this year. James Corden, TV host and tribute writer to her describes the special sense of comfort her work provides. “It’s as if she is holding out her hand and saying, ‘I know how you feel. I’ve been there,’” he writes.
We must have the same compassion for those in crisis if we are to find common ground. It is clear that all of us have the power to make a difference.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME