TIME'S 25 MOST INFLUENTIAL AMERICANS

  • Share
  • Read Later
It's a big year for influence. Half the news out of Washington is about who has been trying to buy it, how much they paid, and whether they got their money's worth. There are many lessons to be drawn from that situation. One of the less obvious is that influence is not so easy to come by. Even in Washington, it's not always something you can go out and buy. Just ask the Chinese.

Which brings us to TIME's 25 most influential people, 1997 edition. These are people who have accomplished something subtle and difficult. They have got other people to follow their lead. They don't necessarily have the maximum in raw power; instead, they are people whose styles are imitated, whose ideas are adopted and whose examples are followed. Powerful people twist your arm. Influentials just sway your thinking.

Among this year's 25 are good influences and dubious ones, public personalities and players so private you may not have known they were pulled up to the game board, much less that one of the pieces was you. They include the writer Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose thinking is influential; the chatterbox Rosie O'Donnell, whose cheer is influential; and the rock musician Trent Reznor, whose gloom is influential. (Funny world.) One way or another, these 25 are people to look out for.

Tiger Woods PROFESSIONAL GOLFER

He has been likened by overheated journalists to Jesus, Mozart and Gandhi, and his father Earl Woods has said, "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity." But we are, after all, talking about a 21-year-old golfer, so think Palmer, Jordan and Ashe instead. As Arnold Palmer did some 30 years ago, Tiger Woods has electrified the sport of golf. He is, in the parlance of the gallery, "the Man." Since turning pro last August, he has won three P.G.A. events and $1,270,944. Tournaments in which he is playing sell twice as many tickets as those in which he is not. His gallery at last week's Masters dwarfed every other golfer's. Spectators are drawn to him because of both the blood (Asian, African, American Indian) and the ice water in his veins. Like Palmer, Woods invariably goes for the pin, but Arnie never had this kid's swing: a breathtakingly sweet release that routinely drives a ball twice as many yards as Tiger has pounds (155). Amazingly, he has birdied or eagled more than 50% of the par fives he has played as a pro.

The only other athlete in Tiger's endorsement league is Michael Jordan. Nike pays Woods $8 million a year to wear its trademark swoosh. Titleist gives Woods $4 million a year to endorse its line of golf products. Much to his credit, Woods doesn't simply take his money and play. He conducts clinics for inner-city kids, and he plans to form a Tiger Woods Foundation that will create opportunities for youngsters who would otherwise never get a chance to make par. Golf is still the most restrictive of our major sports, and Woods has already confronted that discrimination, in much the same way that Arthur Ashe challenged tennis. "Golf has shied away from [racism] for too long," says Woods. "Some clubs have brought in tokens, but nothing has really changed. I hope what I'm doing can change that." There is a long way to go--longer than 300 yds.--but if Woods spanks prejudice from golf, he will truly be the Man.

Kim Polese WEB ENTREPRENEUR

Give Kim Polese credit: at age 9, she knew she wanted to start her own company. "I just didn't know whether it was going to be ice cream or software," she says, laughing.

The dairy counter's loss is the information age's gain, since Polese oversees a year-old Silicon Valley start-up called Marimba Inc. If influence means setting important agendas, then Polese, Marimba's resident proselytizer and CEO, is the most influential Web entrepreneur of this online generation--that is, the past six months. For Marimba's turf is push media: online material sent to individual computers automatically, without users' having to pull it down from Websites themselves. The push idea has been around since early 1996, when Pointcast popularized the notion of streaming media--offering stock quotes, sports scores, news headlines and the like. But it was Marimba that made push the defining Web vision last fall with Castanet, a system that offers streaming software, the actual applications--from spreadsheets to video games--whose efficient transmission will turn the Web into the all-encompassing information appliance its adherents have been promising.

It's heady stuff, but at 35, Polese already has a proven knack for sinking her teeth into the Next Big Thing. The Berkeley biophysics major cut those teeth doing tech support in the futuristic arena of artificial intelligence at Intellicorp and Sun Microsystems. It was at Sun in the early '90s that she hooked up with a project code-named Oak, which grew into Java, the programming language that brought interactivity to the Web and Polese to public attention as the engaging human face of what to most was an incomprehensible software product. With a core team of Java programmers, Polese lit out from Sun to found Marimba and change the world.

She hopes to make barrels of money in the process. That won't be easy; in just six post-Castanet months, a host of combatants, including Netscape and Microsoft, have entered the fray. But by stamping the future with Marimba's push-software brand and, not at all incidentally, doing so as one of the high-tech world's rare women executives, Polese has earned an honored place as the Web's 1997 It Girl.

Madeleine Albright SECRETARY OF STATE

Madeleine Albright was already trying to influence people's views of foreign policy when she was in the ninth grade, a recent refugee with a funny accent and the wrong clothes who decided to start an international-relations club and make herself its president. Now, 46 years later, she is poised to become one of the most influential foreign policy powers in the arena, in large part because her voice carries further than anyone else's--right into the White House.

When Clinton was mulling his choices for a Secretary of State to replace the untinted Warren Christopher, he soon acknowledged that no one was more skillful, or colorful, at explaining U.S. foreign policy interests than his outspoken U.N. ambassador. While her critics caricatured her as a loose cannon, without the heft and discretion to be a careful diplomat, the charge never stuck: for one thing, those who worked with her in private knew that those lively broadsides that made such great bites on the evening news had been carefully scripted and well rehearsed.

It has also helped that Albright, 59, has spent the better part of her adult life building a personal and professional network in Washington, on Capitol Hill where she got her start as an aide to Senator Edmund Muskie; in academia, where she taught hugely popular courses at Georgetown; and on the social circuit, where her parties were a natural salon for Democratic Pooh-Bahs in exile. When it came time for her nomination, her allies were in position to pick up the phone and make her case. She wooed Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman Jesse Helms, who had scotched more than one potential nominee, and won over conservatives with the diligent door-to-door politicking of a small-town mayor.

The test for Albright is whether she will be able to make her case for U.S. foreign policy initiatives as effectively with foreign governments as she has with Clinton. And female foreign-service officers, noticing that she hasn't appointed any women to prominent slots so far, are grumbling that the glass ceiling may now be reinforced as the floor beneath her feet.

John McCain U.S. SENATOR, ARIZONA

When Senators see John McCain on C-SPAN, they know to grit their teeth and say a prayer. Chances are the Republican is calling them panderers and pork barrelers. In a town where politicians are in a daily tug-of-war with their scruples, McCain is the most conscientious of objectors to business as usual. Their consciences pricked, Senators would rather he just shut up. But McCain, 60, doesn't care; faced with congressional ill will, he points to the order of his priorities: "First their respect, then their affection."

A Vietnam POW hero turned Congressman, he saw his star dim in 1989, when he was one of five Senators accused of helping S&L sultan Charles Keating in return for campaign contributions. McCain got only a slight reprimand, but was mortified. He redoubled efforts at reform legislation, hiring a staff member--nicknamed the Ferret--to search bills for unnecessary expenditures, forcing lawmakers to relinquish pork projects or be publicly rebuked. "He's had some Kansas projects in there too," says a rueful Bob Dole, a powerful man to cross.

Now McCain is taking on campaign-finance reform with a bill that currently has only one other G.O.P. sponsor, fainthearted support from the President, and a legion of opponents. Still, to his colleagues' chagrin, he presses on. As the historian Polybius wrote, "There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man."

Don Imus THE NATIONAL INQUISITOR

Clinton loved him during the 1992 campaign, appearing three times on his show. The President felt less warm toward him when sharing the Radio-Television Correspondents' Association dais with him in 1996 and hearing pointed jokes about Hillary. ("You know about flop sweat?" asks the perp. "Man, there's no experience in the world like turning around and having the President of the U.S. glare at you.") But Bubba knew that Don Imus, the grizzled, cello-voiced host of Imus in the Morning, aired on 95 stations, was one radio man worth listening to and talking to. Says Senator Christopher Dodd, a frequent guest: "He wants you to make fun of yourself without making a fool of yourself." Pols and pundits get to do it for an audience three times as large as that of the Sunday TV talk shows.

Imus, 56, is not Howard Stern, his rival for morning radio dominance. But he was, before Howard was, in the early '70s--with the gross-out skits, the monologue rambles, even an irreverent book (God's Other Son, written in the voice of his preacher creature, Billy Sol Hargus). Imus once declared that if Stern got higher ratings than his, he would eat a dead dog's penis; he later said it "tasted good." But if Stern's audience is larger (an estimated 18 million listeners, vs. 10 million), Imus' is richer and better educated. Stern, like a balky kid in therapy, speaks to the inner churl. Imus, the seen-it-all skeptic with a curiosity beyond his groin, speaks to the inner policy wonk.

With his craggy face and curly hair, Imus, hunched over the radio mike, looks like a hip granny playing R. and B. on the church organ. But what he really plays is people. "Imus is the best political interviewer," says New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. "He's read everything, and he gets to the heart of everything." The host claims that all he wants from guests is to "goad them into saying something that ruins their life." Spoken like a 29-year veteran of shock-jocking. But Imus does more: probing and prodding like a national inquisitor, he translates stodgy politics into vital popular culture.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. PROFESSOR

Combine the braininess of the legendary black scholar W.E.B. DuBois and the chutzpah of P.T. Barnum, and the result is Henry Louis Gates Jr. At 46, the chairman of Harvard's Afro-American-studies department has emerged as a prolific author, a whirlwind academic impresario and the de facto leader of a movement to transform black studies from a politically correct, academic backwater into a respected discipline on campuses across the U.S. Says Gerald Early, director of African and Afro-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri: "Skip Gates has legitimized black studies in the mainstream."

This year alone, two landmark scholarly works that Gates co-edited--the Norton Anthology of African American Literature and The Dictionary of Global Culture--have been published, along with Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, a collection of essays. At the same time, Gates has continued to attract new talent like UCLA sociologist Lawrence Bobo to the collection of intellectual superstars who have made the once nearly defunct "Afro studies" one of Harvard's most popular--and glamorous--departments. It now includes such luminaries as philosopher Cornel West, legal theorist A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. and urban sociologist William Julius Wilson. Other universities are scrambling to keep pace with Gates' recruiting, driving up salaries for highly sought-after scholars.

Gates will next edit the Encyclopedia Africana, a project first envisioned by DuBois. "In the past, each generation of black intellectuals has had to reinvent the wheel because we didn't have a set of definitive reference books to build on," says Gates. The encyclopedia "will give us a base of knowledge about black people around the world so strong no one can ever say we have no culture, no civilization, no history."

Robert Thurman DHARMA WARRIOR

He is the Billy Graham of American Buddhism. Or perhaps the St. Paul, a latter-day, larger-than-life scholar-activist destined to convey the dharma, the precious teachings of Siddhartha, from Asia to America. At the very least, he is the Ziegfeld of the U.S. branch of Tibetan Buddhism and its consanguine, quixotic movement to liberate Lhasa from Beijing's rule. His Tibet House in New York City, something of a cultural embassy for expatriates, is the magnet that draws celebrities and a new generation of seekers to the cause of the Land of the Snows, to the fabled faith of a fabled land. With two major films due on the Dalai Lama, some wonder if his lost horizon may be spoiled by the glitziness of its Hollywood adherents and entrance into the mainstream. But Robert Thurman does not mind the company. "All that is to the good," he says. "Certain things about Buddhism that are old-fashioned, chauvinist, stupid, teachers who are irresponsible, that will be brought to light. But in the long run, America will learn about Buddhism."

It helps to have fathered actress Uma, but Thurman, 56, has led a life that could very well be made into a movie. Like the Buddha, he once enjoyed a princely existence, but after losing an eye in a freak accident, he left his well-born wife and young child to travel as a virtual mendicant through Turkey, Iran and India, where he had planned to earn a living by teaching English to boys designated as reincarnations of venerable lamas. Eventually he converted to Tibetan Buddhism, befriended the Dalai Lama and became a monk. Convinced by his teachers that his calling lay elsewhere, Thurman gave up his vows, married Nena von Schlebrugge (Uma's mother) and entered academia. His advisers had been prescient. Says actor and fellow traveler Richard Gere: "He just has enormous power in that arena. He's bright, he's iconoclastic, he's verbal, he's funny, he's avuncular, he's all of those things that you want in a professor. He turns people on."

Steve Coz EDITOR, NATIONAL ENQUIRER

At a time when the press is drawing fire (rightly or wrongly) for everything from stalking Richard Jewell to bringing hidden cameras into grocery stores, the National Enquirer is on a roll. The photo it published of O.J. Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes was perhaps the key piece of evidence that persuaded a civil jury to find him responsible for the death of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. Its offer of a $100,000 reward in the murder of Ennis Cosby led police to the man now charged with the crime. In stories ranging from the Dick Morris scandal to the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, the Enquirer and its fellow tabloids have been out front, while much of the mainstream media follow.

A big reason is Steve Coz, who was named editor of the Enquirer in September 1995 after 14 years with the splashy supermarket weekly. Coz, 39, is one of a new breed of editors who are making the tabs more influential. In contrast to his predecessor, Iain Calder, who only finished high school, Coz graduated cum laude from Harvard. He has stressed hard news, opening a Washington bureau and aggressively pursuing the stories that end up on the evening news. "We pare things down to the bone," he says, "to make sure we're giving readers the accurate information they need without inundating them with boring details."

Dishing the dirt on Hollywood celebs is still the tabloids' bread and butter, and the Enquirer still offers up bizarre crimes, amazing ghost stories and the occasional UFO tale. Nonetheless, Coz sees it as an honorable calling. "There's a $2 billion celebrity-publicity machine out there that wants to tell you that Tom Cruise is 6 ft. 5 or that someone else is a supermom and a heroine to women everywhere," he says. "Our role is to get to the truth of what these people who become icons are really like."

The tabloids often do it by paying for information, something mainstream journalists frown on. But legwork is almost as important. "I knew the Bruno Magli shoe pictures were out there," says Coz, "and we spent months trying to get them." David Margolick, who covered the Simpson trial for the New York Times, later wrote that the Enquirer "probably shaped public perceptions of the case more than any other publication." Adds Coz, with typical tabloid hyperbole: "Every single network, every single magazine in America has gone more celebrity. That's the Enquirer's influence, whether you like it or don't like it."

Richard Scaife CONSERVATIVE AGITATOR

If conservative thinkers like Bill Bennett and Paul Weyrich are the brainpower behind the resurgent American right, the horsepower comes from Richard Mellon Scaife. For close to four decades, the 64-year-old Pennsylvanian has used his millions to back anti-liberal ideas and their proponents. He is believed by the left to be the bogeyman behind virtually every seemingly nefarious action by the right. Most recently, he has been linked to Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel who announced he was accepting a double deanship at Pepperdine University's law and public policy schools. Scaife, it turned out, had given a $1.1 million grant to the new public policy school. As Clintonites weave dark scenarios, a Scaife spokesman says the millionaire has never had a conversation with Starr. Still, the school's small board of academic advisers that helped pick Starr is laced with people employed by think tanks run with the help of Scaife money.

The reclusive heir to a chunk of the Mellon fortune--Forbes says he is worth about $870 million--Scaife has decidedly mixed feelings about his ancestry and has ceased using his middle name. He controls the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Carthage Foundation, which help subsidize rabidly anti-Clinton magazines as well as conservative social-policy projects. "We work in the world of ideas," says Richard Larry, president of the Sarah Scaife Foundation. "A success for us is when the ideas of one of the groups or individuals we're working with become part of the public policy debate." And if Scaife can take a nick out of Clinton's reputation along the way, so be it.

George Soros PHILANTHROPIST

I remain a supercapitalist," proclaims billionaire financier George Soros, clearing up confusion on a matter that should go without saying. After all, he did build much of an estimated $2.5 billion fortune speculating in world currency markets. These days Soros has been winning headlines for giving away money, not making it. His $350 million in gifts last year made him the nation's leading philanthropist. And he has been stirring controversy by directing his dollars to an array of hot-button political causes tied to his personal ideal of an "open society" and by writing an iconoclastic critique of free-market capitalism.

Soros, 66, has an indisputable Midas touch. His years of shrewd market playing may have reached a high-water mark in 1992, when he placed a high-stakes bet against the British pound and earned an estimated $1 billion for his Quantum Fund--and the nickname "the man who broke the Bank of England." Meanwhile the Jewish, Hungarian-born Soros, who has lived under both Nazis and communists, was giving away millions in Eastern Europe. His Open Society Fund backed the dissidents of Czechoslovakia's Charter 77 and Poland's Solidarity, helping to topple totalitarian regimes in those countries. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars more trying to nourish democratic practices and the rule of law throughout the former Soviet bloc.

Although he remains a generous force in that region, Soros, a naturalized American citizen, has begun directing much of his charity to this country. In a lengthy essay in the Atlantic Monthly earlier this year, Soros wrote that laissez-faire capitalism has got so out of hand that the "main enemy of the open society is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat." He contends that the "cult of success has replaced a belief in principles" and that "society has lost its anchor."

As he has shifted his giving homeward, Soros has kept his concept of the open society firmly in mind: $1 million to help pass initiatives in California and Arizona last year that legalized the medicinal use of marijuana ("I firmly believe the war on drugs is doing more harm to our society than drug abuse itself," he says); $15 million for "Project on Death in America," a program aimed at a more humane and realistic treatment of the terminally ill; $50 million for a fund to help legal immigrants; $12 million to improve math education in the inner cities and rural areas.

To detractors, Soros is at best confused in his economic analyses, at worst a Benedict Arnold to the system that made him rich. Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins economics professor, considers Soros one of the best hedge-fund managers in history but dismisses his essay as "muddled theorizing." Soros is undeterred. "A lot of people wrote articles about the piece in the Atlantic, but I am not sure too many people read it," he says. The way to keep America a free market, he insists, is to protect it from the excesses of free-market ideology. In his view, no ideology is infallible.

Unlike the tycoons of an earlier day, Soros does not want his foundations to live on after him. "They should not be endowed with the money of a dead man who cannot exercise critical judgment," he explains in his book Soros on Soros. Until then, his highly personalized philanthropy seems destined to play an important role in American life. In sheer dollars, he is more committed than almost anyone else to putting his money where his mouth is.

Harvey Weinstein MOVIE MOGUL

For the Hollywood establishment, Oscar night was a wake. But for Harvey Weinstein, 45, and his brother Bob, 42, co-chairmen of Miramax Films, it felt like a double Bar Mitzvah with a billion TV guests. The English Patient, the rapturous epic that Miramax sponsored after 20th Century Fox chickened out, won nine statuettes. In all, Miramax copped 12 Oscars, a feat not achieved since 1939, when MGM had Gone With the Wind.

You needn't cry for Fox: just one of its films, Independence Day, earned more at the domestic box office than Miramax's entire 1996 slate. But, as Harvey says, "The special effects in Miramax movies are words." With their fondness for smart scripts and challenging images, these two guys from Queens, New York--scrounging and hustling in true silent-movie-mogul tradition--proved that you didn't need a bloated budget if you had the savviest taste in the business. Harvey turned oddball films into hits: The Crying Game, Like Water for Chocolate, Pulp Fiction. Bob, who runs Miramax's Dimension subsidiary, took a scare story called Scream and coaxed it to an $80 million gross.

Independent filmmakers are of many minds about Miramax; they gather in bars at Cannes and Sundance to tell "Harvey stories," as if they were campfire kids and he were God, Godot or Gotti. Jurors at a recent festival are said to have denied a prize to a favored film simply because it bore the Miramax label. Some producers have charged that the Weinsteins don't rush to pay their bills (to which a Tinseltown titan shrugs and says, "Aaah, nobody pays").

But even these producers don't question the Weinsteins' drive, intelligence and enlightened movie mania. Few would debate Harvey's boast that "we've taken films out of the art-house ghetto and brought quirky new sensibilities to mass America." Fewer still quibble over whether Miramax, owned by Disney, is truly an independent outfit. In terms of quality, the big studios are releasing almost nothing but minor films. For discerning moviegoers, Miramax is the major. And Harvey is the general.

Chris Carter CREATOR, THE X-FILES

To every generation, there is a televisionary. First, Rod Serling enfolded a still innocent America in The Twilight Zone; then Gene Roddenberry launched the country, disguised as the multicultural Enterprise, on a voyage in Star Trek; David Lynch led audiences away from cosmopolis and back to the suddenly unfamiliar heartland of Twin Peaks. Today's seer is Chris Carter, 39, creator of The X-Files, a show that takes America's obsession with the occult and cover-ups, with truths impossible to ignore but too terrible to be told, and transforms that paranoia into a compelling amalgam of hipness and horror--proving it possible to be both cool and unnerved.

The saga of two FBI agents skulking along the fringes of the paranormal, The X-Files sparked a genre renaissance (including Profiler and Carter's own Millennium) and spawned a legion of young, wild-eyed followers as fanatical as the older army of Trekkies. Why does X mark the files and the generation? "Clearly, there's a widespread belief that there are secrets that can explain an otherwise unfathomable world," says Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology at New York University. And with the approach of the millennium, he says, "the odds sure go up" for paranoia.

Carter is wary of claiming to reinvent the form. He feels he's just pumping his love of truth-seeking movies like All the President's Men and The Silence of the Lambs into a medium that he feels has lacked a good frightfest since the mid-'70s. "What I've attempted to do was scare you in a smart way that makes you think and question," he says. "If you just put on special effects, you're not storytelling, you're pandering."

A TV series can't go too far wrong with killer cockroaches and sinister feds with nicknames like "Cancer Man." Yet the show's biggest draws remain the sly, sexy agents Mulder and Scully, who represent the true believer and the skeptic. Their intertwined quests mirror the popular thirst for certainty as well as the hope that "the truth is out there," even if it is way, way out.

Lisa Schultz FASHION ARBITER

The Gap is an illusion. It appears to be the quintessential place to shop for the basics, for the kids, for Mom and Dad, for Grandma, for Cousin Beatrice and Uncle Dennis. It's jeans, khakis, socks, T shirts. And then, suddenly, there on the counter is a neon jacket or, by the stacks of blue and black jeans, a proper pair of homeboy overalls. A pea coat at the store last season was redolent of high-fashion stylishness--but priced to sell to customers for whom Bergdorf's is as chilly and distant as Milan. Slowly, delicately, the Gap has ceased to be simply the jeans shop it started out as in 1969. Now it is the place for Americans to pick up clothes that are both timeless and timely.

Much of the credit for this infiltration of the American wardrobe goes to Lisa Schultz, 42, the San Francisco-based company's executive vice president for product design, who has overseen dozens of collections in the past decade (the Gap changes store offerings every six to eight weeks). Operating out of New York City, she and her team of 80 product developers and designers look for inspiration and ideas everywhere--in magazines, at flea markets, on street corners--before deciding what concepts will work for the season and the Gap. Schultz, who got her start with Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, guides the process. "My responsibility is to say, 'This knit pant and this woven pant overlap. This one goes. This is a better piece.' I have good eyes." This summer, Gap customers will find a seasonal "explosion of blue and lots of white," says Schultz, "pools and sea and summer; white, white, white."

Schultz's talent for mixing and matching accounts for a lot of the Gap's contemporaneity--and success. Net sales hit $5.28 billion last year, a 20% increase over 1995. Says Schultz: "We're always looking over our shoulder, checking the competition, making sure that we're 'there.'" Right now, where she is, America shops.

Paul Romer ECONOMIST

How do you weigh the economic benefit of the thoughts in Bill Gates' head? The sand on a beach can be measured, but how do you calibrate the value of the idea that turned those silica grains into silicon microchips? Though they sound like questions from a Mensa parlor game, they're actually from the work of economist Paul Romer, and his answers may just revolutionize the study of economics.

A sage for the silicon age, Romer is upgrading the dismal science to keep pace with the digital revolution. Economists have long known that when growth goes up, so do salaries, employment and standards of living. What has changed, argues Romer, is the long-term causes that make all those good things happen. The economic model of the smokestack age says labor and capital (inputs) are the only two ingredients that can increase production (outputs). Thus a company can either hire more people to crank out the widgets, or spend money to increase the efficiency of a plant to move product out the door at a lower cost. Romer, 41, argues that technology--which can simply mean a new "idea" for doing something--is not a mysterious outside force, as economists thought in the past, but an internal one that can be cultivated to increase growth. "The emerging economy is based on ideas more than objects," instructs Romer. Develop a new way to design a microchip, and you can process twice the information in half the time.

For his work in this field of "new-growth theory," the Stanford economist has been called "the most influential theorist of the 1980s" by the equally prominent M.I.T. economist Paul Krugman. Listen to a venture capitalist talk about investing in "knowledge industries" and promoting "idea-driven growth," and you hear Romer's work speaking. Luminaries like management guru Peter Drucker speculate about Romer's chances of winning the Nobel Prize for Economics the way sportscasters handicap a fleet-footed freshman's chances of grabbing the Heisman Trophy.

Having challenged the way economists view the world, Romer is eager to work on the public, to trade in his gangly equations for accessible metaphors. What role does government play in promoting the efficient allocation of ideas? he asks. (Perhaps he should ask his father, Colorado Governor Roy Romer.) What role do companies play? Skeptics say that only by finding workable answers that generate the robust growth his theory promises will Romer live up to his advance Nobel billing.

Conservatives wave his work to argue for nixing the capital-gains tax, and liberals say he is really calling for more "investment" by government. Speaking for himself, Romer dumps on the liberal spending gambits and, to conservative grumbles of "Stalinism," allows that gains may accrue from collective activity. Says Romer: "I'm quite happy to offend everyone."

Bonnie Campbell LAW ENFORCER

One victim at a time. One police officer at a time. One community at a time. Stumping in the manner of an itinerant preacher, Bonnie Campbell is the force behind a grass-roots shift in the way Americans view the victims--and perhaps more important, the perpetrators--of crimes against women. Director of the Violence Against Women office at the Justice Department, she is the first person ever to occupy her bully pulpit, handpicked by the President in 1994 to focus on one of his pet concerns. It is Campbell who applies gentle pressure on Clinton to keep telling the world how his stepfather hit his mother, and Campbell who, by traveling around the country and speaking to small-town sheriffs and big-city D.A.s, is making sure the words domestic violence remain part of the national conversation.

It is not so much what she says, though, as how she listens that makes Campbell so effective. With gracious self-assurance, she forms unlikely alliances between state troopers and rape victims, prosecutors and hot-line operators. Then she returns to Washington to work with the feds to help put teeth into new laws in the Violence Against Women Act, like the one prohibiting people who violate restraining orders from carrying firearms. As part of the 1994 Crime Act, she has some $1.6 billion to divvy up among the states over six years--money that puts beds in shelters and specially trained community police officers on the streets. And amazingly, Campbell then stops by, all the clout of the Attorney General's office behind her, to help recipients find ways to spend the money effectively. She preaches, then makes sure the conversion goes smoothly.

Campbell, 49, brings to her job the rock-solid credibility of having been both a prosecutor and, during her successful 1990 campaign for Iowa attorney general, the victim of a stalker--which led her to write one of the nation's first stalking laws. She has a darker personal motivation as well: in 1975 her half brother Steven Pierce was sent to prison for life for the brutal rape and murder of a teenage girl in upstate New York. Campbell is haunted by this crime. "I have some sense that I should try to make amends in some small way," she says. She is doing more than that, one step at a time.

Babyface Edmonds POP MUSICIAN

You don't have to listen to one of his songs to get a feel for what Kenneth ("Babyface") Edmonds is about. That nickname says it all: Babyface. Think smooth. Think innocent. Think everything that today's often raucous pop music usually isn't, and you'll have Babyface. He is yin to gangsta rap's yang; his music champions a return to romance, to candlelight dinners and kissing in the rain. And when big stars are looking for big hits, they turn to Babyface: he's collaborated on songs with Mariah Carey, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Eric Clapton. Even the Rolling Stones have enlisted him to work on their forthcoming album. All told, Babyface, 39, has produced 16 No. 1 hits. Now he is trying to branch out into the movies, producing Soul Food, starring Vanessa Williams, Nia Long and Vivica A. Fox. Says Quincy Jones, a legendary producer himself: "I can't really rank Babyface because Babyface is by himself. There is no competition."

The Babyface sound is all over the radio. At any given time there are usually about half a dozen songs on the charts that are either written by him, produced by him, performed by him or all three. His record label, LaFace, features such multiplatinum acts as Toni Braxton and the singing trio TLC. Edmonds' music, typically, is pop R. and B., soft focused, unassuming, with the kind of shamelessly affable melodies that win you over but make you feel a bit guilty for loving them so much.

A little Babyface does go a long way. His songs are like speeches at a political convention: designed to offend no one. So critics ask, Where's the soul in his soul? He knows the rules: soft sells, and bland is big, but risk taking wins real respect. Edmonds says he is intent on deepening his musical work, looking to innovators and consciousness raisers like Stevie Wonder for inspiration. (Edmonds' last album, The Day, featured a song about domestic violence; it was a duet with Wonder.) Could true Wonderdom be in his future? Says Edmonds: "I'm young, and I've still got a ways to go before I get there, and I want to get there."

Dilbert WORKING-CLASS HERO

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's...well, it's not Superman. It's Dilbert, tie awry, hapless and victimized, soaring just as high in the popular imagination as the Man of Steel. Not only does Dilbert appear in 1,550 papers in 17 languages and 39 countries, with a daily readership of 150 million, he is also the diffident star of six best sellers (sharing one, though, with his Machiavellian sidekick Dogbert), and his pathetic, cubicle-bound existence may soon become a live-action series on the Fox Network this fall. Asked whether he has been surprised by the strip's success, Dilbert's creator, Scott Adams, 39, calmly replies, "No." And then he breaks out in manic laughter. After regaining his composure, he says, "I am as surprised as anybody that it succeeded in the exact way that it has succeeded. But still, the irrationally optimistic answer is that I always expect everything I do to change the world, not just because there's something special about me but because everything in the world was changed by one person, if you think about it. You'd be hard pressed to think of an example of anything that didn't start with one person."

And that may just be the secret to Dilbert's influence. In that surreal purgatory where he wages a guerrilla war for survival against stapler misfirings and all-powerful, learning-impaired managers, Dilbert somehow believes he might just be able to start changing things--even if he doesn't really alter his work situation in the strip. Nevertheless, we are rooting for him because he is our mouthpiece for the lessons we have accumulated--but are too afraid to express--in our effort to avoid cubicular homicide. With backhanded assistance from his Dogbert, Dilbert has accumulated aphorisms that liberate simply because they capture the existing irrationality. For example, "The purpose of analysis is to avoid making hard decisions. Therefore, there can never be too much analysis"; "All rumors are true--especially if your boss denies them"; and, of course, "Your boss reached his/her position by being politically astute. Don't turn your back."

It isn't surprising that Dilbert's fans respond in equally subversive ways. The strip is photocopied, pinned up, downloaded and faxed thousands of times daily. Adams receives a constant stream of E-mail suggestions from real life. "Throughout history, there have always been times when it's very clear that the managers have all the power and the workers have none," Adams says. "Through Dilbert, I would think the balance of power has slightly changed."

Rosie O'Donnell CHEERLEADER

Yes, there are loftier, more laudable show-business goals than becoming the Merv Griffin of one's generation, but thankfully Rosie O'Donnell, 35, was not consumed by more grandiose dreams. As a TV addict growing up in Commack, New York, she fell in love with the ingratiating style of talk-show hosts like Griffin and Mike Douglas. Rather than focus on her film career, the comedian last year decided to return daytime TV, then the unseemliest segment of popular culture, to a more civil time, when talk-show guests were appealing and unscarred, identified on air by name rather than transgression ("Slept with boyfriend's mechanic").

"I tried to make a show that an eight-year-old kid could watch with his mother and grandma that would entertain everyone," says O'Donnell, who is a single mom with an adopted son Parker, 18 months. And that she has done. Since its debut last summer, the Rosie O'Donnell Show, broadcast all over the country and contracted to run at least until the year 2001, has become the second-highest-rated daytime talk show on TV behind Oprah's. In Los Angeles, Rosie has even been known to beat the grande dame. But has Oprah ever managed to get Hillary Clinton to belt out a tune from Bye Bye Birdie? If Rosie has a formula it is "Love thy neighbor to the right." And unlike Jay Leno, who also works overtime at being nice, Rosie has an unmatched gift for conveying reverence without ever seeming awkward.

She also has a gift for marketing. In October she handed out 200 Tickle Me Elmo dolls to members of her studio audience; the toy became the hottest commodity last Christmas. When Scope jokingly named her America's least kissable celebrity, she endorsed Listerine. Since March, Listerine has donated $1,000 to charity every time Rosie is bussed on air. Her children's foundation has chalked up more than $350,000.

Rosie hasn't killed off all the smutty talk shows just yet. But when was the last time anyone uttered the name Ricki Lake?

Andrew Weil ALTERNATIVE-MEDICINE GURU

In the war-torn world of modern medicine, one of the most heated but overlooked battles has raged between advocates of traditional science and of alternative healing. Into the breach comes Andrew Weil, 55, a physician and author who is fast emerging as a family doctor to America. Only a physician who trained in medicine's mainstream could credibly question its methods. And Weil studied in the most mainstream place possible: Harvard Medical School.

While there, Weil conducted some of the earliest lab studies of marijuana and concluded that there are no bad plants, just inexperienced users. Later he traveled to South America to study medicinal flora. "Local healers were using these marvelous plants," he says, "and established medicine had never even heard of many of them."

Weil began preaching the word of alternative medicine (though downplaying his pot position of old). Now that word has been heard. Spontaneous Healing, published in 1995, has sold more than a million copies, and his latest book, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, has become a best seller as well. Two PBS programs featuring Weil drew record audiences.

The extraordinary thing about Weil's medical gospel--a liturgy of nutrition and life-style tips--is its ordinariness. That has not stopped some doctors from arguing that woefully little science documents the value of much that he prescribes. Weil responds with an olive branch. "Mainstream medicine handles some things quite well--particularly emergencies," he says. "But when it comes to helping the body stay healthy, alternative methods are the way I go." For better or worse, many Americans are going with him.

Robert Earl CEO, PLANET HOLLYWOOD

The business proposition behind the glitzy, star-studded theme-restaurant empire of Robert Earl is simple and unadorned. "For 15 bucks a head we take people out of reality," he says. That's a deal diners find compelling. Why else would they wait in line for a seat at Planet Hollywood or the Official All Star Cafe? After all, the closest most ordinary folk are going to get to celebrityland is to have a beer with the replica of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator or share a burger with one of Andre Agassi's tennis racquets, neither of which adds much to the conversation.

But that is close enough, as Earl, 45, has discovered to his considerable gain. Planet Hollywood is part of a new way of dining, called eatertainment, that he developed into an industry. Earl was already an experienced dinner-theater operator when he bought into one of the two Hard Rock Cafe companies in 1988. In expanding the chain from seven to 22 units, he began to understand the huge attraction that a restaurant with "all the whistles and bells"--not to mention a souvenir stand to sell T shirts, jackets, sunglasses and golf balls--could become. Other theme eateries that took a menu page from Planet Hollywood include Motown Cafe, Harley Davidson Cafe, Rain Forest Cafe, and Dive! No wonder: last year Planet Hollywood sold shares on the stock market that made Earl's roughly 25% ownership worth about $400 million. The company had sales of $373 million and profits of $48 million.

Planet Hollywood expanded the theme idea to jocks with the Official All Star Cafe, and it will soon make a foray into a music restaurant. Also planned: Chefs of the World and an eatery based on Marvel comic-book heroes. Says Earl: "I've always felt that movies and sport and music transcend every barrier. We take them to the people." This year Earl will take his restaurants to such locations as Cairo, Prague, Dublin, and Rio. He's also expanding the brands to casinos and hotels.

Earl never travels to an opening without a retinue of movie stars or star athletes, who own just under 20% of the company. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore were early investors. (Hollywood producer Keith Barish brought Earl the idea for the restaurant.) Earl figured, correctly, that if the stars had a piece of the action, they'd be motivated to make appearances. Official All Star Cafe's newest athlete-partner is fellow TIME 25er Tiger Woods, a neighbor of Earl's in Orlando, Florida, not to mention a potential golf partner.

Once, Earl thought he had the second best job in the world, behind Disney boss Michael Eisner. Now, says Earl, "I'm not jealous of anyone else."

Marcia Angell MEDICAL ESSAYIST

It pays to listen to Dr. Marcia Angell. In 1992, as the Food and Drug Administration began banning silicone breast implants, Angell, the executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, argued that it wouldn't have hurt to withhold judgment a little longer, certainly until comprehensive studies on their danger were completed. Besides, the implants had been on the market more than 30 years and had been placed in more than 1 million women.

The FDA did not wait. It enacted its ban, and as a result, thousands of women panicked, leading to a haggle of personal-injury lawsuits. By 1994, however, a series of scientific studies began showing no long-term side effects. Based on those studies, a ruling by a federal judge last year said that plaintiffs' attorneys in a class action could not introduce evidence or testimony that said implants cause disease. Angell's 1996 book about the implant controversy, Science on Trial, became an instant classic on junk science.

She is not the most powerful person at the Journal--that distinction belongs to her boss, Dr. Jerome Kassirer, the editor in chief. But as executive editor, Angell, 57, is responsible for selecting and shaping the Journal's "Sounding Board" pieces and "Special Articles"--items that direct the attention of 230,000 well-placed subscribers in the medical community to particular points of view about complex scientific and social issues. It is an influence that reaches far beyond her position at the Journal. Trained as both an internist and a pathologist, Angell displays a carefully reasoned style in her editorials that has made her a favorite among physicians and journalists. Her editorials have championed everything from the Canadian-style single-payer health-care system to more aggressive pain management. In an especially poignant editorial on physician-assisted suicide in January, she told the story of how her terminally ill father killed himself rather than be admitted to a hospital for treatment. She says, "Illness and death are not optional. Patients have a right to determine how they approach them."

Michael Price FUND MANAGER

Were it not for the fact that he's filthy rich and more than a little arrogant, Michael Price could be a populist hero. In the 1980s, rapacious raiders such as T. Boone Pickens and Carl Icahn attacked underperforming companies mostly for their own short-term gain. Price, 45, is a new kind of raider, a mutual-fund manager with a long-term strategy who leads the charge on behalf of Mutual Series, a $21 billion group of funds he runs out of Short Hills, New Jersey. Price sold his company, Heine Securities, to Franklin Resources for $850 million last year but stayed on to manage the funds. The Mutual Shares flagship fund has ranked in the top 10% of peer funds over the past 10 years.

When Price wars, targeted companies seldom escape his wrath. Typically, he will buy a big stake in a laggard company and demand a meeting with management. If he fails to get satisfaction, he'll announce his displeasure publicly. That's when the sharks begin circling. He owns 5.5% of publisher Dow Jones and is pushing for change. "We've done some things that people have noticed," Price says.

Indeed, in 1995 Price almost single-handedly forced a merger of Chase Manhattan and Chemical Bank. He spotted a sleepy stock, Chase, that he believed was severely undervalued. Buying more than 6%, he used his position to demand a fix. The $10 billion deal generated more than $500 million in stock gains for Price's funds and secured his place as a Wall Street player. Last year he was behind the hiring of Al ("Chainsaw") Dunlap as CEO of Sunbeam. The stock has nearly tripled. As some ex-CEOs have learned, don't bet against him.

Colin Powell MOBILIZER

Polls say he's the favorite of Republicans for the White House in 2000 and would beat Al Gore, the Democrats' toughest contender, 49% to 35%. In Washington that kind of potential power always means outsize influence, and Colin Powell has it in abundance. It seems only to enhance his stature that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff leads a fairly private life and maintains a skillful neutrality about someday seeking the highest office to which mere politicians are hormonally drawn.

He has been wrestling in retirement with how to turn his supercelebrity into something substantial, and has rejected offers to run big companies and foundations. Instead he has become general chairman of the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, a kind of Points of Light program on steroids. It aims to boost the voluntary help Americans, especially corporations, donate to combatting poverty and other social ills, particularly those affecting children. Later this month he kicks off its big opening ceremony in Philadelphia, in the company of all the living Presidents (save for Ronald Reagan, who will be represented by his wife Nancy).

The goal is concrete actions that will measurably help at least 2 million people by the end of the century, such as getting companies to supply money or people for community programs. Already, Honeywell has promised to recruit 4,000 volunteers to build low-income housing and an additional 8,000 employees to mentor at-risk kids from ages 10 to 18; Pfizer will donate $5 million in medicine to poor children and provide access to health care. When a firm signs up, "we're going to call its program a 'promise,'" says Powell. "That's a word with emotional tug--not like 'commitment,' which is something bureaucratic."

When even Bill Clinton is saying the era of Big Government is over and is pushing a complex partnership among different levels of government and private enterprise to fix the schools and find jobs for welfare recipients, it's a perfect moment for Powell, 60, to lend his self-made reputation to making volunteerism cool. He doesn't have to develop elaborate social policy either, at which he showed no great skill in his near run for the presidency, just inveigle CEOs and community groups to cough up more programs, cheer good results and keep count. He says simply, "I have arrived at the point in my life where I am trying to use what I have been given by my nation to help the nation." Powell is not humble, but he is unaffected, wholly comfortable in his own skin. "I try to be the same person I was yesterday," he says. That may be the most enduring source of his popular appeal--and one reason why average Americans won't cynically view the summit as just a launching pad for a presidential run three years hence.

Robert Rubin SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

When Robert Rubin talks, everyone, especially the President, listens. Thanks partly to the departure of strong personalities like Leon Panetta and Dick Morris, Rubin has grown even more influential this year, dispensing advice on topics ranging from trade to urban renewal. "Rubin has earned his influence with a very reflective decision-making style that has produced success after success in very tough situations," says Gene Sperling, head of the National Economic Council.

Rubin's comportment undoubtedly helps. He exudes the calm, deliberate air of the polished investment banker he once was (he co-managed Goldman, Sachs & Co. for six years). As chairman of the National Economic Council during Clinton's first term, he persuaded the President that if deficit reduction was made a top priority, inflation and interest rates would drop, setting the stage for an economic boom. The strategy worked, and Rubin won the Treasury job when Lloyd Bentsen stepped down in 1994. Rubin also masterminded the politically risky $13.5 billion emergency bailout of Mexico in 1995. The gamble paid off: Mexican officials announced earlier this year that they would repay the loan package in full, three years ahead of schedule.

A centimillionaire, Rubin, 58, lives in Washington's tony Jefferson Hotel during the week, commuting by plane on weekends to see his wife Judy, who lives in New York City. A bonefishing enthusiast, he sometimes jets off to the Bahamas for a day's angling. Determined to promote further deficit reduction, Rubin pledges to push hard in the White House as well as in Congress to achieve a balanced budget by 2002. To do so, Clinton will have to compromise with the g.o.p. while still delivering on campaign promises the Republicans oppose, such as incentives for education and safeguards for the environment. The task is a tricky one, but Rubin remains bullish. Confidently and typically prosaic, he says, "I expect it will be done."

Trent Reznor INDUSTRIAL ROCKER

Trent Reznor is the anti-Bon Jovi. He is the lord of Industrial, an electronic-music form that with its tape loops and crushing drum machines, harks back to the dissonance of John Cage and sounds like capitalism collapsing. But Reznor, with his vulnerable vocals and accessible lyrics, led an Industrial revolution: he gave the gloomy genre a human heart. It's been said that he wrote the first Industrial love songs.

It is a love that the Marquis de Sade would have found delectable. Reznor's 1994 album The Downward Spiral, for example, was recorded in the house in which Charles Manson's followers murdered Sharon Tate in 1969. But it also features moments of fragility--on the hit song Hurt Reznor sings, "I hurt myself today/ To see if I still feel/ I focus on the pain/ The only thing that's real." The Downward Spiral sold more than 2 million copies; earlier this year Spin magazine named Reznor "the most vital artist in music."

Reznor, 31, records as Nine Inch Nails, a one-man studio act, and has a thriving touring career as leader of Nine Inch Nails, a quartet that interprets his computerized compositions before wild fans. He is now nurturing other shock rockers, such as the hard-core horror band Marilyn Manson. Reznor's work is the stuff of nightmares for virtuecrats like William Bennett, but Oliver Stone drafted Reznor to write music for Natural Born Killers, as did David Lynch for his post-noir Lost Highway. Reznor also provides the background music for Goths, a mostly Generation Y subculture of kids who tend to dress in black, vampirelike garb and obsess over death and decay.

Reznor's music is filthy, brutish stuff, oozing with aberrant sex, suicidal melancholy and violent misanthropy. But to the depressed, his music, veering away from the heartless core of Industrial, proffers pop's perpetual message of hope--or therapeutic Schadenfreude: there is worse pain in the world than yours. It is a lesson as old as Robert Johnson's blues. Reznor wields the muscular power of Industrial rock not with frat-boy swagger but with a brooding, self-deprecating intelligence. "I had no expectations of commercial success," he says. "But people 'got it.' That I didn't expect."

Want to read more about our TIME 25 choices? Go to our Website at time.com