On Wednesday, Time announced German Chancellor Angela Merkel as its 2015 Person of the Year, making her the first individual woman to win the honor in almost 30 years. It’s fair to say that Merkel is more than deserving: In the past 12 months alone, she’s helped bail Greece out of national debt; opened Germany’s borders to refugees; and offered troops in the fight to end ISIS.
“Germany has spent the past 70 years testing antidotes to its toxically nationalist, militarist, genocidal past,” Time writes in the announcement. “Merkel brandished a different set of values—humanity, generosity, tolerance—to demonstrate how Germany’s great strength could be used to save, rather than destroy. It is rare to see a leader in the process of shedding an old and haunting national identity.”
While not everyone has agreed with Merkel’s decisions in the past year, her impact is undeniable. If Time‘s Person of the Year is ultimately a measure of influence and power, Merkel has certainly swayed the needle on multiple occasions — and that extends far beyond 2015. Over her last decade in office, she has proven time and time again that she is a political force to be reckoned with; and it’s safe to say the Chancellor is leaving her mark not just on her country’s history, but on the world’s, as well.
“You can agree with her or not, but she is not taking the easy road,” the announcement continues. “Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow. For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is Time‘s Person of the Year.”
The win feels all the more significant given how rarely it’s been given to women. For those unfamiliar, the last time a woman won Time‘s Person of the Year was in 1986, when it was awarded to Corazon Aquino, the first female President of the Philippines. To put that into perspective, at the time, the honor wasn’t called “Person” of the Year. As Time points out, “If you look up the table of contents of that issue in the Time archive, you’ll find a line that reads ‘Woman of the Year.’ Immediately following is a parenthetical: (Man of the Year).” The magazine only officially changed the title in 1999.
But even though the honor has historically been given to men, it’s important we put it into context and try to understand why. If the Person of the Year is predominantly based on political influence and power, it’s fair to say that women haven’t been given as much of an opportunity to win since its inception. By and large, women are still in the minority when it comes to positions of power — but the tides are slowly changing. And Merkel is proof of that.
(Images via Shutterstock, Time.)