As the refugee crisis spilled over into Europe this past summer, many in the continent slammed doors in their faces, spouted xenophobic rhetoric, and cracked down on those passing through to reach safer places. Amid the hostility, Germany made headlines for being the sole European country that welcomed those fleeing violence and persecution with open arms. On Wednesday, in honor of her strong leadership and values, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was named Time's Person of the Year.
Dubbing her "Chancellor of the Free World," the magazine chose Merkel over seven other finalists: Black Lives Matter activists, transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and real estate mogul-turned-Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. She is only the fourth woman named Time's Person of the Year and the first woman chosen for the title since 1986.
Time highlighted Merkel's steering of the endangered Euro currency from the brink of collapse and her commanding lead of the West's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The magazine also lauded the 61-year-old as a welcome change to Germany's ugly history:
Germany has spent the past 70 years testing antidotes to its toxically nationalist, militarist, genocidal past. Merkel brandished a different set of values — humanity, generosity, tolerance — to demonstrate how Germany's great strength could be used to save, rather than destroy. It is rare to see a leader in the process of shedding an old and haunting national identity.
"At a moment when much of the world is once more engaged in a furious debate about the balance between safety and freedom, the Chancellor is asking a great deal of the German people, and by their example, the rest of us as well," Time's Nancy Gibbs wrote. "To be welcoming. To be unafraid. To believe that great civilizations build bridges, not walls, and that wars are won both on and off the battlefield. ... Leaders are tested only when people don't want to follow. For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is TIME's Person of the Year."
Cover image via Time magazine