Time’s 2019 Person of the Year is its youngest ever: Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist who has mobilised millions of people around the world to fight climate change.
“She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement,” Time Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal said on NBC’s “Today” show.
With her selection, the 16-year-old climate activist becomes the youngest individual ever to be named Time’s Person of the Year. Since 1927, Time Magazine has chosen a man, woman, or idea that "for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year." Time’s list gives a contemporary view of what was important during each year.
The magazine has never selected a teenager. Before 2019, the previous individual to hold the record for “youngest Person of the Year” was also the first one in TIME’s history: 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh, selected as most influential man of 1927.
Lindbergh was an American aviator, one of the best-known figures in aeronautical history, remembered for the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York City to Paris, on May 20th–21st, 1927.
Other Person of the Year selections, such as large groups of people, “You” (2006) and “The Protester” (2011) could include persons who would beat Lindbergh for the title of “youngest”.
In 1982, the computer became the first object ever to receive the distinction
Young people represent an unusually large share of the population, and that generation’s impact is growing. The best illustration of the impact of youth can be seen in the Person of the Year selection for 1966: The Inheritor, the generation who were then 25 and under.
And in 2019, millions of people across the world joined one young person in particular: Greta Thunberg who represents a broader phenomenon of young people pushing for change.
The magazine says it chose Thunberg for raising the alarm on climate change and "showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads".
She became the voice of conscience for a generation facing the climate change emergency. "In the 16 months since (her protests began), she has addressed heads of state at the UN, met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike," the magazine Time said.
"We can't just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow. That is all we are saying," Thunberg told Time.