TIME Magazine named President Obama “Person of the Year” for 2012, characterizing the president as a central player in the nation’s evolution.
“We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes,” said TIME managing editor Richard Stengel in announcing the choice on Dec. 19, “and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.” He was the magazine’s choice for the same title in 2008, the year of his first presidential win.
Obama became the first Democratic president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to win more than 50 percent of the vote in consecutive elections, and he accomplished that despite an unemployment rate of more than 7.5 percent.
The re-election victory showed “the Obama effect was not ephemeral anymore, no longer reducible to what had once been mocked as that ‘hopey-changey stuff,'” wrote TIME’s Michael Scherer in the accompanying cover story.
“It could be measured in wars stopped and started; industries saved, restructured or reregulated; tax cuts extended; debt levels inflated; terrorists killed; the health-insurance system reimagined; and gay service members who could walk in uniform with their partners. It could be seen in the new faces who waited hours to vote and in the new ways campaigns are run. America debated and decided this year: history would not record Obama’s presidency as a fluke.”
The win has seemingly emboldened the president. Once criticized for being too retiring, Obama seems more unflinching in his demands of Congress; his legislative aspirations are more ambitious, encompassing immigration, climate change, gun control and prison reform; and the leader who became famous for his preternatural calm, has twice cried publicly, most recently in reaction to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“It was easy to think that maybe 2008 was the anomaly,” he told Time. “And I think 2012 was an indication that, no, this is not an anomaly. We’ve gone through a very difficult time. The American people have rightly been frustrated at the pace of change, and the economy is still struggling, and this president we elected is imperfect. And yet despite all that, this is who we want to be. That’s a good thing.”
The competition for the title was formidable. Earlier this month, TIME’s online readers selected North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un as their choice for Person of the Year. Others on the short list of candidates included: Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani women’s rights activist who survived after being shot in the head and neck in an attempted execution by the Taliban; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi; and particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti, who is credited with refining the understanding of the nature of the universe.
Still, it seemed, Obama’s “transformative politics” won out.
“For finding and forging a new majority, for turning weakness into opportunity and for seeking, amid great adversity, to create a more perfect union, Barack Obama is TIME’s 2012 Person of the Year.”