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Person of the Year

Time Magazine has named Joe Biden and Kamala Harris jointly as their Person of the Year for 2020. In one sense, this is not a big surprise; it's the eighth straight time the winner of the U.S. Presidential election won the honor. The presidency is an influetial position, and the winner of the election can expect to be an influential person. But in another sense, this choice is a surprise, because 2020 is a very atypical year, and the election—momentous though it was—was not the biggest story of the year.

That honor belongs, of course, to the new coronavirus, the global pandemic it caused, and the worldwide efforts to create a vaccine. That researchers were able within a year to create not just one, but three vaccines with an efficacy of more than 90%, is very probably the greatest achievement in the history of medicine. Surely the researchers involved in this accomplishment are more deserving of Time Magazine's Person of the Year than any politician.

The second biggest story of the year is the success of Black Lives Matter and other similar movements pushing for racial justice. Following the death of George Floyd from asphyxiation by a police officer in May, protests sprang up in cities across the nation. On June 6, half a million people marched to protest police brutality. And the movement just grew from there. By early July, more than 15 million people had taken part in at least one protest. Protests would continue through October, including several events across the country what would have been Floyd's 47th birthday. One organization in Floyd's hometown of Houston spent the days leading up to the November 3 election canvassing for votes, urging residents to vote to honor Floyd's memory. Like the medical researchers, the protesters have affected our world much more than any politician, and are more deserving of Person of the Year.

It's not unprecedented for Time to name a group as the Person of the Year. The award went to American soldiers in 1950 and 2003, American scientists in 1960, "middle Americans" in 1969, American women in 1975, and peacemakers in 1993. In each of the first two decades of the 21st century, the award went to a group four times out of ten.

I'm not trying to downplay the significance of the election of Biden and Harris. Biden is the first candidate in 28 years to win against an incumbent president. And Harris is the first woman—and the first woman of color—to be the Vice President.

But these accomplishments pale in comparison to what other, less recognizable people have achieved this year. The protesters and the medical researchers were both deserving of the Person of the Year this year. Even if it couldn't have been awarded to both at once, it could have gone to one or the other.

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