The annual distinction is given to the person or thing that Time believes has most influenced culture and the news during the past year, for good or for ill.
“They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change.”
– Rick Stengel, Time Editor
“Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough,” Time Editor Rick Stengel said in a statement on Wednesday.
“They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change,” he said.
On almost every continent, 2011 has seen an almost unprecedented rise in both peaceful and sometimes violent unrest and dissent.
Protesters in a lengthening list of countries including Israel, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and the United States all increasingly link their actions explicitly to the popular revolutions that have shaken up the Middle East.
Admiral William McRaven, head of US Special Operations Command and overall commander of the secret US mission into Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, came in at second place on the Time list.
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, whose 81 day secret detention by authorities earlier this year sparked an international outcry, came in at number three, followed by US House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who married Prince William in April, rounded out the Time short list.
Last year, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg received the honour.