Each year Time magazine publishes a celebratory first issue recognizing a person, movement, or organization that, for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the previous year.
In 2015 Time honored Angela Merkel, the first woman Chancellor of Germany.
The refugee and migrant crisis of 2015 challenged Europe’s principle of open borders. She stated, “As Europeans we owe it to ourselves and to the world to rise to the great challenge posed by these people looking for help. We must pursue a European asylum, refugee and migration policy that is founded on the principle of solidarity and our shared values of humanity.” This policy was not without controversy in Germany itself.
In January 1948, Time gave the honor of “Man of Year” to George C. Marshall for giving “hope for those who needed it” through the Marshall Plan.
When he visited Europe in 1947, Marshall saw a continent crushed by economic despair. The war had destroyed beautiful cities, factories were in ruins, jobs were scarce and there was not enough food to go around. That same year he gave testimony before Congress about a bill to admit displaced persons in Europe to the United States. The hearings had been going on for eight days before Marshall made his remarks.
He told Congress, “I earnestly hope that the Congress will reject the alternative of forcible repatriation as a solution of this problem. Forcible repatriation would therefore be violating not only our American traditions but also standards of international conduct. But we cannot, I feel, sit back ourselves and expect other countries to make all the positive efforts to solve this problem in which we are so directly concerned. If we practice what we preach, if we admit a substantial number of these people as immigrants, then with what others are already doing and will do we can actually bring an end to this tragic situation. In so doing, we will also confirm our moral leadership and demonstrate that we are not retreating behind the Atlantic Ocean.”
Despite the 70 years that separate their awards, both Marshall and Merkel share the same sentiment about those seeking a better life from war torn countries. The Chancellor’s New Year’s Eve address to her nation sums it up quite nicely, “I am convinced that, handled properly, today’s great task, presented by the influx and the integration of so many people, is an opportunity for tomorrow.”