Bob Driver: Why am I not included on TIME’s list of most influential people?

opinion (Large)

Some people are born to greatness; others achieve it on their own; still others have it thrust upon them by fate.

The rest of us just sit on the curb and cheer as the Big Boys and Girls march by to Valhalla, Cooperstown or wherever great folks go.

That’s my customary reaction each year when TIME magazine publishes its list of “The 100 Most Influential People” in the world. I always hope my name and picture will be included, but it never happens. I’m left to wallow in my own insignificance. Which, of course, is preferable over other fates such as being a failed presidential contender.

How should we respond to TIME’s choice of influential persons? The front cover is filled by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. He won this year’s Best Actor award for wrestling a bear. Should I feel grateful for Leonardo’s influence on me each time I step outside, knowing that if I suddenly encounter a bear I, too, can possibly defeat it even though I’m roughly 118 years older than DiCaprio?

TIME’s listing placed the world’s top influentials into five categories: pioneers, titans, artists, leaders and icons. If you think you’d recognize the names of many or most of TIME’s choices, you’re mistaken. At least that’s what happened to me. After reviewing all 100 names, I felt like an ignoramus. Here’s my rundown:

Of the 21 people in the “pioneers” category, I recognized only Caitlyn Jenner, famous for changing from a male to a female. A partial list of pioneers I had never heard of includes Kip Thorne, Raj Panjabi, Alan Stern, Nadia Murad, Roy Choi, Palmer Luckey, Lee Berger and Mussie Zerai. Do any of those names ring a bell with you?

Of the 14 persons on the “titans” section, I could identify four: basketball star Stephen Curry; actor Dwayne Johnson; Pope Francis; and philanthropist Mark Zuckerberg.

The other titans (unfamiliar to me) were Priscilla Chan, Eli Broad, Kathleen Kennedy, Wang Jianlin, Sunda Pichair, Katie Ledecky, Mohammed Bin Nayef, Yuri Milner and two men — Binny and Sachin Bansai (unrelated), who founded Flipkart, an online shopping outlet in India.

The “artists” group contained the name of the only influential born in Florida. She is Ariana Grande. If you know of her, you’re a bigger fan of current music newsmakers than I am. Ms. Grande, 22, is an R&B singer and actress. I booted her up on YouTube. She’s a pleasure to listen to and to watch. Will she be an influence on my life, or yours? Who knows? Stay tuned.

And so on. I won’t take your time or attention by writing about the influentials TIME chose for its “leaders” and “icons” sections. I found it confusing to pinpoint why some selectees landed in one section and not another.

Years ago I was a young reporter for the Toledo (Ohio) Blade. One afternoon the city editor said, “Driver, get out to the airport and get an interview with an archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. He’s a big gun, and he’s flying in from Constantinople.”

It didn’t matter to the editor that the church dignitary spoke little English and I didn’t know a word of Greek, or anything else about the man or his church. And there was no time for research. The chief commandment for a newspaper reporter: “Get the story. No excuses.”

With the help of the archbishop’s handlers, I got the interview, but I was left with a lifelong urge to know at least one or two facts about every big-timer, nabob, dignitary, eminence or celebrity on earth, just in case I was ever called upon to interview him or her on short notice. As you can imagine, that urge was never fulfilled. There are simply too many nabobs, and the list keeps changing.

But I’m still a sucker for many “100 most this or that” lists. With this latest TIME roster, my primary question about many of the choices is not “Who is this person?” but “How in the world did this nonentity deserve to ranked as an influential?”

You can find the TIME spread on Google. Just type in “TIME 100.” Have fun.


Bob Driver writes for the Tampa Bay Newspapers. His email address is [email protected] Column courtesy of Context Florida.


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