Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

The People Who Influence Our Lives

When Viktor Yushchenko, his face bearing the tragic scars of a poisoning, rode the "Orange Revolution" to victory in Ukraine, it transformed a nation — and reverberated around the globe. A few weeks later in Lebanon, demonstrators cited Yushchenko's example (as well as that of Iraq's brave voters) as they rose up against Syria's occupation. The TIME 100, our annual list of the world's most influential people, is partly about individuals like Yushchenko who inspire others to act. It's about Presidents and dictators, but also about innovators like Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google, who keep redefining the very notion of how, and how easily, we access information. And the list honors people like Lubna Olayan, a businesswoman who bravely, and famously, continued a speech at a Saudi economic forum after her veil slipped off. Her determination, later criticized by clerics and the media, served as inspiration to Saudi women who want to pursue productive lives outside the home.

Influence is a hard thing to quantify. But you know it when you see it — in a Yushchenko or an Olayan — and in the long run, it's what real power, hard or soft, is all about.