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Time magazine reveals its Person of the Year 2011

Time magazine revealed the 2011 choice for its iconic Person of the Year cover live on TODAY Wednesday. The Protester is this year’s choice, managing editor Rick Stengel told Matt Lauer and Ann Curry.

“There was a lot of consensus among our people,” Stengel told the TODAY anchors as he revealed the magazine’s cover. “It felt right.”

As it has for the past 84 years, the weekly newsmagazine selected the person (or sometimes group, or thing) that its editors deemed had the single greatest impact during the past year, for better or for worse. Time’s Person of the Year has been a perennial topic of year-end debate ever since aviator Charles Lindbergh was chosen the first Man of the Year back in 1927 (the title was amended to Person of the Year in 1999). But the title is not necessarily an accolade; while many presidents, political leaders, innovators and captains of industry have been cited, some of the more notorious Persons of the Year include Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in 1943 and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. There have also been more conceptual choices, such as “the American Fighting-Man” (1950), “Middle Americans” (1969), and this year’s choice, The Protester.

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    Time Persons of the Year 1999-2013

    A look at Time magazine's Person of the Year covers from the past decade reveals an eclectic mix that reflects shifting times.

  • Time Persons of the Year 1999-2013

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    2013: Pope Francis -

    A look at the Time magazine Person of the Year covers from the past decade reveals an eclectic mix: choices have ranged from presidents to whistleblowers, even "You." This year Pope Francis took the title.

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    2012: Barack Obama -

    President Barack Obama was TIME magazine’s iconic Person of the Year in 2012. “He’s basically the beneficiary and the author of a kind of a New America, a new demographic," TIME managing editor Rick Stengel said.

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    2011: The Protester -

    Symbolizing a worldwide wave of dissent that swept from the Arab Spring to Athens, the Occupy Wall Street movement to anti-autocracy demonstrators in the streets of Moscow, The Protester summarized a year of turmoil.

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    2010: Mark Zuckerberg -

    More than half a billion people on the planet live in a world created by Mark Zuckerberg. The good news is, their friends all live there too. Zuckerberg founded the social networking site Facebook in his college dorm in 2004, but 2010 was the year that Facebook reached critical mass, both in sheer quantity of users and in its presence all over the web.

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    2009: Ben Bernanke -

    After weathering one of the worst financial storms in U.S. history, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, won 2009's title because of his influence on the world's most important economy.

    “He was the great scholar of the Depression who saw another depression coming, and did everything he could to stop it,” said Time's managing editor, Richard Stengel.

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    2008: Barack Obama -

    A look at Time magazine's Person of the Year covers over the past decade reveals an eclectic mix reflecting the temper of the times: Choices have ranged from presidents to whistleblowers to "You."

    In 2008, Time's editors chose the man who had just won a historic election: Barack Obama.

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    2007: Vladimir Putin -

    In 2007, Time editors chose "the man who tamed Russia," President Vladimir Putin. The issue included an interview with Putin about corruption, religion and the war in Iraq.

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    2006: "You" -

    Time's 2006 Person of the Year was one of its most controversial choices: "You." The computer-screen cover was meant to stress the increasing importance of the World Wide Web and its users, "citizens of the new digital democracy."

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    2005: Bill Gates, Bono, Melinda Gates -

    Three faces made it onto the 2005 Persons of the Year cover: Good Samaritans Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates were cited for their global efforts "to end poverty, disease and indifference."

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    2004: George W. Bush -

    In 2004, American voters returned George W. Bush to the White House for a second term. Time magazine acknowledged the event by returning Bush to Person of the Year status, which he had previously attained in 2000.

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    2003: The American Soldier -

    2003 was the year the U.S. invaded Iraq, and that December, Saddam Hussein was captured. Those events were key in Time's decision to honor the American soldier as the Person of the Year.

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    2002: The Whistleblowers -

    In a year when corporate scandals dominated the headlines, three women made it to the Persons of the Year cover: Cynthia Cooper, who exposed phony bookkeeping at WorldCom; Coleen Rowley, whose office tried to call the FBI's attention to Zacarias Moussaoui, lated indicted as a Sept. 11 co-conspirator; and Sherron Watkins, who warned of improper accounting at Enron.

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    2001: Rudy Giuliani -

    As the mayor of New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack that changed America forever, Rudy Guiliani stood tall as an inspirational leader. Time called him “America’s homeland security boss” and a “gutsy decision-maker.”

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    2000: George W. Bush -

    The election that made “pregnant chads” and “recount” part of Americans’ household conversations ended bitterly, with George W. Bush winning the presidency without the popular vote. With his promise to unite the country as the 43rd president, Bush also won the title of Time's Person of the Year.

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    1999: Jeff Bezos -

    It’s easy to forget that there was life before online shopping. At the end of the millennium, it was Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, who ushered in the future of retail. Time selected him Person of the Year in 1999, and at 35, he was the fourth-youngest to ever receive the honor.

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Other candidates
Polled online earlier this week, hundreds of TODAY.com readers came up with many other nominees for 2011, including late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and SEAL Team 6, who killed Osama bin Laden.

“Gabrielle Giffords is in the magazine,” Stengel pointed out when Lauer mentioned the support for her and Jobs. "Steve Jobs is in the beginning of our Farewell section.” (The Farewell section spotlights the most noteworthy deaths of the year.)

Via Facebook, TODAY.com reader April Merenda said Jobs should be the choice “to make up for (Time) not getting it right in 1984 as well as acknowledging his contribution to our global society and generations to come.” Reader ririjam suggested “the three women who just won the Nobel Peace Prize” or first lady Michelle Obama, who “has maintained grace and dignity.”

And Time conducted its own poll last month, offering a list of 34 candidates that ranged from prominent political leaders to pop culture icons. Time’s list included Casey Anthony, Herman Cain, Kim Kardashian, Steve Jobs, and such movements and groups as “The 99%” (and “The 1%”), and the international hacking collective Anonymous.

Time also revealed the runners-up for 2011 Person of the Year on its website, Time.com. Coming in No. 2 on the list is Admiral William H. McRaven, who organized the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in May (a choice similar to the popular TODAY.com nominee SEAL Team 6).

The No. 3 choice is Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese conceptual artist and activist who helped design Beijing National Stadium for the 2009 Olympics — and was held incommunicado for 81 days and interrogated some 50 times by Chinese authorities last spring and summer while supporters around the world petitioned for his release.

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    People take part in Friday prayers in Cairo's Tahrir Square before a mass rally on Nov. 25. Thousands of Egyptians continue to occupy the square ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Nov. 28.

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    Egyptian protesters pray during a march in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 25. Egypt's ruling military council appointed Kamal Ganzouri on Friday as prime minister to form "a national salvation government" to replace the cabinet that resigned earlier in the week.

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    Volunteers clean up garbage and rocks on Nov. 24 after clashes in Alexandria, Egypt. Protesters and police observed a truce after violence that killed 39 people in five days.

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    A riot policeman fires a gun, allegedly at protesters, during clashes on a side street near Tahrir Square.

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    Wounded protesters are driven away to a makeshift hospital in Tahrir Square on Nov. 23.

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    An Egyptian soldier tries to keep thousands of protesters away from riot policemen during a demonstration in Tahrir Square during the fourth day of clashes with security forces on Nov. 22. Demonstrators are demanding an end to military rule, heightening tension after days of deadly clashes that threaten to derail next week's legislative polls.

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    Egypt's Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, longtime defence minister who is now the country's de facto ruler, addresses the nation in a televised speech in Cairo on Nov. 22. The head of Egypt's ruling military council accepted the cabinet's resignation and said the military was ready to hold a referendum for immediate transfer of power.

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    A protester displays empty tear gas canisters as others chant slogans during clashes with riot police in Cairo on Nov. 22.

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    Protesters carry a wounded comrade to a nearby hospital on a motorcycle during a demonstration by tens of thousands of Egyptians in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    Protesters pack Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 22 as clashes between police and protesters demanding democratic change entered a fourth day.

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    Protesters take shelter behind a wall during clashes with riot police on a side street near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Egyptians frustrated with military rule battled police in the streets as the generals scrambled to cope with the cabinet's proffered resignation after bloodshed that has jolted plans for the country's first free election in decades.

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    Riot police stand behind flames from molotov cocktails during clashes with protesters on a side street near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    An ambulance makes its way through thousands of protesters as they attend a funeral of a victim of earlier clashes in Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    A riot police officer fires tear gas during clashes with protesters near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    A protester throws a tear gas canister, which was earlier thrown by riot police during clashes along a road which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    Protesters carry a wounded man during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    People carry the body of a protester who was killed in clashes with the riot police during his funeral in Tahrir Square on Nov. 22.

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    Protesters clash with riot police in Alexandria on Nov. 21.

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    Protesters stand in line to protect the field hospital in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Nov. 21.

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    Protesters run from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in Tahrir Square on Nov. 21.

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    An injured protester is helped away during clashes with security forces in Tahrir Square on Nov. 21.

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    Protesters throw stones at riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets near Tahrir Square on Nov 21.

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    A protester winces after being exposed to tear gas during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    A riot policeman aims a shotgun with rubber bullets at protesters, next to a plainclothes policeman during clashes in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    Protesters carry a man injured during clashes with riot police in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    A protester stands on top of a burned car in a Cairo street on Nov. 21.

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    An Egyptian protester hurls a tear gas canister back at security forces as others run for cover on the third day of clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    Two Egyptian protesters help a man overcome with tear gas during clashes in Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, on Nov. 21.

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    An Egyptian protester sprays water on the eyes of a fellow demonstrator after tear gas was fired by security forces in Tahrir Square on Nov. 21.

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    Canadian volunteer nurse, Merikel, right, helps an Egyptian medical team treat an injured protester at a field hospital at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    A protester climbs a burned building to rescue residents trapped by fire during clashes with police in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    An Egyptian protester shouts during clashes with security forces at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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    A protester overcome by tear gas kneels in the middle of the street during clashes with Egyptian riot police near the interior ministry downtown Cairo, Egypt, on Nov. 20.

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    Egyptians protesters are pushed away by security forces during clashes in Cairo on Nov. 20.

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    Protesters run from riot police spraying tear gas, during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 20.

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    A protester receives medical treatment at a field hospital after being wounded in clashes with Egyptian riot police in Cairo on Nov. 20.

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    Egyptian protesters are confronted by riot police firing rubber bullets and tear gas in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 19.

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    Egyptian riot police clash with protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 19, as Egyptian riot police dismantled a small tent city set up to commemorate revolutionary martyrs in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

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    Egyptian youths attack a police vehicle in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 19.

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    Protesters chant slogans in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo on Nov. 18.

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    Egyptian protesters take over Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 18.

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No. 4 on Time’s list is Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican whom the magazine credits with bringing to the front of the national consciousness an issue that Washington was loath to confront: America’s ballooning national debt.

And coming in No. 5: Duchess Kate. Having captured the attention and affection of millions, the magazine says, the former Kate Middleton is now “poised to reinvent celebrity with restraint.”

“Admiral McRaven captured bin Laden, and the Duchess of Windsor captured our hearts,” Stengel commented on TODAY. Still, he added, “It’s not a lifetime achievement award.”

So in the end, it was the image of The Protester — summarizing mass actions against dictators in the Middle East, anti-drug cartel sentiment in Mexico, marches against unaccountable leaders in Greece, the America-spawned Occupy movement, and dissent from the Putin regime in Russia — that appeared on Time’s 2011 Person of the Year cover.

“There’s this contagion of protest,” Stengel said on TODAY Wednesday. “These people who risked their lives... I think it is changing the world for the better.”

Read more about the Time Person of the Year at Time.com. Follow @Time on Twitter for more on #POY2011.

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