(USNewsMag.com) – Every year, TIME Magazine recognizes someone or something that has “done the most to influence” that year’s events “for better or worse.” On Wednesday, the American news magazine announced it chose to recognize both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as “Person of the Year” and the “spirit” of the people of Ukraine for their joint, ongoing efforts to curb the war against Russia. But is the recognition of Zelenskyy justified?
The tradition of recognition began in 1927 when TIME honored Charles Lindbergh as “Man of the Year” following his historic transatlantic flight. Ever since then, the list expanded to include other presidents, leaders, women, minorities, ideas, and even objects such as the computer, when it was named “Machine of the Year” in 1982.
Zelenskyy allowed TIME to take part in intimate moments and conversations, with the interviewer describing how underwhelming the Ukrainian president’s supposedly secure and secret transportation was. Observing how Russia’s leader would rather have Zelenskyy assassinated, it’s incredible to see Zelenskyy unfazed by real and persistent threats. He walks among crowds of individuals celebrating recently liberated cities while not wearing a helmet and/or bulletproof vest, much against the advice of his own bodyguards.
The interviewer notes briefly how many Ukrainians have been living in untenable conditions, most without immediate access to basic necessities such as electricity. Perhaps what was most striking was how he recognized that technology and having access to the internet was actually the most important weapon of the Ukrainian president. The first question he asked his staff once he arrived in the city of Kherson was for the wifi password to access the internet, rather than focusing on the moment’s more pressing needs.
President Zelenskyy wasn’t always a politician. His rise to fame began when he was a comedian and actor, often portraying roles that had inherent political undertones. When Zelenskyy took the oath of office on May 20, 2019, some believed this translated into setting him for the world stage once Ukraine came under threat from Russia.
But isn’t it strange how in the middle of a precarious war, in which anyone’s life could be endangered by simply being within Ukrainian territory, Zelenskyy somehow had enough time on his hands to be on his phone? To take part virtually in world leadership conferences such as the World Economic Forum and the NATO summit in Madrid, to grant interviews to talk-show hosts and journalists, to hold live chats with students at Ivy League universities, and to host Hollywood celebrity visits in his bunker?
For a man that is on Vladimir Putin’s Most Wanted list – who constantly begs for additional aid and support and has received close to $68 billion (and counting) from the US alone– he sure doesn’t act like he’s worried. The Washington Post reported that many Ukrainians felt as if Zelenskyy did not prepare them soon enough for the war because he prioritized the economy over their physical well-being. It’s almost as if all he cared about was retaining his power and image, rather than the interests of the people he was elected to represent.
Zelenskyy has managed to capitalize on a platform universally acknowledged as the “iPhone” and the power of communication. Whether or not the information relayed to the rest of the world is completely accurate may be up for discussion in the future. For now, the Ukrainian President remains TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year, and the audience is commending him.
Vianca Rodriguez, Independent Political Analyst
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