Near the end of Tara Westover’s breakout memoir, Educated, she pauses on a timeless question, “Who writes history?” Decades from now when we look back at this era, it’s a fair bet that the answer will be many of the people on this year’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Among them is Westover herself, who has captivated readers with her astonishing journey from the mountains of Idaho to Cambridge and Harvard universities, and beyond.
Westover is self-taught, but her impact on the world has been to educate the rest of us—about the silos we live in and the obstacles faced by so many in our society. We all have teachers, some we know intimately, others who inspire from the page or the screen. This holds true even for the most accomplished people on earth. Our annual TIME 100 issue is filled with tributes from teachers to students; in many cases, the surprise is who is playing which role today.
Warren Buffett praises the leadership of LeBron James, whom he met (on a basketball court!) more than a decade ago. Legendary chef Alice Waters recounts how rising food-world star Samin Nosrat—who began her career working for Waters—helped show her how to cook with care. London Mayor Sadiq Khan calls New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s swift, compassionate response to the shootings at Christchurch mosques “an inspiration to us all.” Viola Davis reveals her lifelong admiration for fellow Oscar winner Regina King, praising her for elevating artists of color and “making me feel seen.” And Bill Gates, whose upbringing could not be more different from Tara Westover’s, shares what she taught him about overcoming our divides.
In many ways, these connections—forged across and among industries—are the heart of the TIME 100, which now, in its 16th year, is far more than a list. It is a community of hundreds of global leaders, many of whom support and challenge one another. And at a time when so many of our problems require cross-disciplinary solutions, they are also uniquely positioned to effect change. “When you connect extraordinary people,” says Dan Macsai, editorial director of the TIME 100, “they can do even more extra-ordinary things.”
This year, for the first time, we have invited some members of our TIME 100 community to speak at a TIME 100 Summit in New York City. Joining us will be participants from the worlds of politics and business—including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Senator Bob Corker—as well as amazing artists, scientists, actors and activists who reflect the remarkable breadth of the TIME 100. Our goal is to spotlight the progress these individuals are making and encourage collaboration toward a better world. “We are only as good as the people that we have around us,” says chef and activist José Andrés, a two-time TIME 100 honoree, who will speak at the summit about how to improve disaster relief. “TIME 100 makes all become one.”
I hope you find this year’s TIME 100 as illuminating and inspiring as I do.