Who Should Be TIME‘s Person of the Year?

From L to R: TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel (moderator); Speaker Newt Gingrich, Bryan Cranston, Padma Lakshmi, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Matt Lauer 
Photo credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images 

TIME hosted its annual Person of the Year panel today, where a seemingly random assortment of notable people give their opinions on who should get the honor. Moderated by managing editor Rick Stengel, panelists included:

Bryan Cranston – best known for his chemical concoctions on Breaking Bad, star of Argo.

Newt Gingrich – The only panelist who actually held the honor of “Person of the Year,” as speaker of the house back in 1995. Dubious about climate change.

Matt Lauer – host of the Today show, not dubious about climate change.

Padma Lakshmi – Host of Top Chef, woman.

Michael Nutter – Mayor of Philadelphia.

Here’s a roundup of the contenders, and what the panelists thought.

Malala Yousafzai

The 15-year-old Pakastani blogger, education and women’s rights activist, was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in October. “Malala Day” was celebrated worldwide on November 10, and doctors say she has the “potential” for full recovery from the gunshot wound to her head.

If the discussion was any indication of who we’ll see on the cover, it’ll be Yousafzai. “She’s not only for human dignity, but for pluralism and education, freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Isn’t that what the American way is about?” said Lakshmi.

“If you want to influence the near future, I can’t think of a better person than Malala,” said Gingrich, “I guess I’m going with [Padma].”

“Wow,” said Lakshmi, surprised by the speaker’s agreement.

“I don’t want to scare you out if it,” he said.

“Some of my best friends are Republicans,” she reassured him.

“Mother Earth,” climate change

“Two words: Hurricane Sandy,” said Lauer. “Global warming is real, it’s not a question of ‘is it real’ or ‘isn’t it real’ anymore, it’s a question of how bad will it get and how bad will it impact us.”

Speaker Gingrich though, did not quite agree. “As a historian, and I look at the climate change issue, and I don’t frankly know whether it’s going to happen… I’m highly dubious that it’ll have all the negative consequences, because it strikes me that it’ll also have positive consequences… We don’t have the power to prevent it, if it’s going to happen.”

The speaker also informed us that “there has been a revolution in understanding of dinosaurs.”

Nutter: “There are things we can do, let us not be so helpless.”

President Obama

“I have twice underestimated president Obama by a large margin,” said Gingrich. “Every model I knew of said… he couldn’t get reelected. The campaign exceeded expectation and exceeded historical patterns.” But the speaker thought “the American voter” would be a better choice over the newly re-elected president.


When asked who he thought should be POY, Mayor Nutter said, “Women.”

“Thank you,” Lakshmi replied.

“These discussions and debates about issues that many of us thought were settled,” said Nutter. “Been there, done that, and we’re still having these conversations and debates as if they’re almost new. Why? Why are we still talking about a lot of this stuff?” Good question Mayor, we’d love to know the answer.

New Media

New media got Cranston’s nomination, who said that all the unprecedented rates of communication “has wonderful benefits and sometimes dangerous consequences,” including the overthrow of governments. But wait, didn’t that already get the title, in 2006?

Some other contenders that panelists and attendees threw out there included Aung San Suu Kyi, Angela Merkel, ‘The Unemployed American Worker,’ Jeremy Lin, Sandra Fluke and Felix Baumgartner. Stengel did say that his choice was discussed, so it’ll probably be one of the aforementioned people. Click here for a video.

Readers, who do you think will get the title?