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'Time' Names Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Person of the Year

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg listens to speeches before addressing a plenary of U.N. climate conference at the COP25 summit in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul White)
'Time' Names Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Person of the Year
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Time magazine has named Greta Thunberg as its 2019 Person of the Year. The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist has become the face of a growing movement of young people demanding action on global warming.

The magazine made the announcement Wednesday morning in New York City on NBC’s “Today” show. It also showed the cover for its special Person of the Year publication.

Greta Thunberg Time Magazine Cover
Greta Thunberg Time Magazine Cover

Time wrote on its website that Thunberg won the award “for sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have...for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads.”

Thunberg said Wednesday that she was surprised when she heard the news. She said the honor also deserved to be shared by others in the worldwide movement she helped launch.

“I’m, of course, very grateful for that, very honored,” Thunberg said. But she added that “it should be everyone in the Fridays for Future movement because what we have done, we have done together.”

Over the past year and a half, Thunberg has drawn huge crowds at protests and conferences. Some have welcomed her activism, including her speeches urging world leaders to take meaningful action on climate change. But others have criticized the sometimes combative way she communicates.

Thunberg told Associated Press reporters Wednesday that she was hopeful that her main message — that governments need to greatly increase their efforts to combat climate change — is finally being heard. But she added that the media should also pay attention to other activists and to the science connected to global warming.

Asked whether she thought world leaders were beginning to react to this message, Thunberg said, “They say they listen and they say they understand, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.”

The four other finalists for Time’s 2019 Person of the Year were the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters; the unnamed whistleblower who raised concerns about a phone call between Ukraine’s president and U.S. President Donald Trump; lawmaker Nancy Pelosi, who in September launched an impeachment investigation into Trump; and Trump himself, whom the magazine recognized with the award in 2016.

Time magazine ran its first “Man of the Year” issue in 1928. That year, the honor went to airplane pilot Charles Lindbergh. He was 25 years old at the time. Until Wednesday, he remained the youngest person to have received the honor.

Wallis Simpson was the first woman Time magazine chose for the yearly award. She was named in 1937, after Britain’s King Edward VIII left his royal position to marry her.

That year, the cover said “Woman of the Year.” But the name of the award was officially “Man of the Year” until 1999. It then changed to “Person of the Year.”

Last year, Time recognized jailed and killed reporters around the world with the award.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English, with additional materials from the Learning English archives. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

global warming - n. the recent increase in the world's temperature that is believed to be caused by the increase of certain gases (such as carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere

draw - v.​ to cause (someone or something) to come​

combative - adj. having or showing a willingness to fight or argue

combat - v. ​to try to stop (something) from happening or getting worse

predatory - adj.​wrongly harming or using others for pleasure or profit

grateful - adj. feeling or showing thanks​