Since the tradition started in 1927, US presidents have systematically featured, as have big names like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, but also more symbolic winners like “the protester” last year or “US scientists” in 1960.
In the past Time has showed its editorial teeth by naming sinister figures _ Adolf Hitler in 1938 and Joseph Stalin both in 1939 and 1942.
But since the leader of Iran’s Islamist revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, graced the cover in 1979, the magazine has tended to shy from picks that might upset its mostly American readership. A notable absence was al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Obama could not be a less controversial choice.
Time said he swept to the head of the pack because of his ability to grasp the demographic and social changes shifting the United States.
“The truth is,” Obama told Time, “that we have steadily become a more diverse and tolerant country that embraces people’s differences and respects people who are not like us. That’s a profoundly good thing. That’s one of the strengths of America.”
Time said Obama was about “convergence of past and future” and said his second term would see him being “more assertive, more personal, more willing to risk his political capital for what he truly believes.”