Contrary to popular belief, the TIME’s Person of the Year is not to be regarded as an honor or an award. The title looks to highlighting somebody or something that has vastly influenced and impacted the events of the year for better or for worse. Controversial figures like Adolf Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957) and Ayatollah Khomeini (1979) had also been granted the title in the past.
This year’s issue received its fair share of backlash when they published the list of eight nominees for 2015, which included extremely controversial and popularly despised personalities like ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Donald Trump, who needs not be introduced. However, this list of nominees perfectly sums up 2015 for the year that it was – a year of controversies, extremism, xenophobia, political & fiscal crisis and moral breakdowns.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany left all of these people behind as the first standalone woman to be awarded the TIME’s Person of the Year in 29 years!
2015 marks Merkel’s 10th year as Germany’s Chancellor, a position that would have been considered ‘unimaginable’ under the circumstances she was brought up in. Merkel has been recognized for her extraordinary leadership skills in facing three major challenges this year - the Greek debt crisis, European migrant crisis and the onset of a new wave of terrorist attacks all over the world.
“The German Democratic Republic, where Angela Merkel grew up, was neither democratic nor a republic; it was an Orwellian horror show, where the Iron Curtain found literal expression in the form of the Berlin Wall. The shy daughter of a Lutheran minister, Merkel slipped into politics as a divorced Protestant in a largely Catholic party, a woman in a frat house, an Ossi in the newly unified Germany of the 1990s where easterners were still aliens. No other major Western leader grew up in a stockade, which gave Merkel a rare perspective on the lure of freedom and the risks people will take to taste it.” – begins the story of Merkel. TIME has applauded her emergence as one of the strongest personalities of the present world despite her caged upbringing.
Merkel’s strategy has always been to avoid conflict and dispute, to be straightforward but to be very vigilant and insightful. However, in 2015, she raised uproar when she opened Germany’s doors to refugees. Further outcries against her decisions ensued after the Paris attacks, when all European nations shut their borders down but Merkel welcomed refugees to resettle in Germany in September 2015.
For a nation that is branded by its history of intolerance, violence and racial hatred, Merkel transformed its image to one of tolerance, generosity and humanity. At a time of crisis like the one that the world has been subject to for the past years on account of terrorist groups, this bold step by Merkel goes beyond ordinary gestures of humanitarianism by world leaders.
Angela Merkel’s 10th year of tenure saw even more political drama during the Greek financial crisis, when she was harshly criticized by many, at home and abroad, for her handling of the matter. Initially having kept ‘Grexit’ as an open option regarding the issue which was widely contested on its own, Merkel was ultimately applauded for coming to terms with Greece regarding a third bailout and keeping the Greeks in the EU.
Merkel’s decisions have been anything but accepted by her people. Her domestic popularity has vastly dissipated mainly due to her decision regarding the refugees. But, “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.” – ends Merkel’s TIME’s profile.