In Review: The 5 Most Powerful People of 2013

Boy walking through the woods in Saratoga Springs

‘Tis the season for lists. The time of year we enumerate the best and worst of everything. Except, of course, the trend of putting everything into lists. That goes unenumerated. But okay, I will play. Here is my list of the 5 most powerful people of 2013. Let’s call it the Power List. The list of movers and shakers who really made a difference this year.

1. The person who read an article online, watched a YouTube video, read a tweet, or saw a Facebook post, and were seized by a powerful impulse to show how smart, funny, loved, insightful, or right they are by posting a snarky, smarmy, sappy, religious, political, angry, or edgy comment, but who did not.

2. The person who helped a homeless person learn to code but did not mount a social media or Kickstarter campaign about it, and did not make a bokeh filled, low contrast, high resolution DSLR Vimeo video with of the moment pop music soundtrack that darn it, despite your best efforts, make you feel . . .  something?

3. The marketer who lay in bed awake night after night, thinking there has to be way way to give our product a sustainability, STEM, social justice, girl power, organic, holistic, or dammit at least something to do with cats angle, but then slowly, painfully came to the ringing bell realization that sometimes a cotter pin is just a cotter pin and got back to work.

4. The grandmother who spends 4 hours a day bringing her grandchild to school. One of my children goes to a charter school that is located in one of New York’s poorest neighborhoods. Many of the children in the school have the odds stacked against them in every other area of their lives. One of my son’s classmates lives in even poorer neighborhood with failing schools that is two hours of walking, busing, and subway-ing away. Her grandmother takes this trip every day, twice a day with her. Their day starts at 5:00am. She does this because she believes that a good education is the best chance for her granddaughter to even the odds. The daily investment that she makes – every day, with no excuses – will not pay off for years. But she makes it anyway.

5. The man dying of cancer. A very close friend of mine, about a decade older than me, is dying of cancer. He was a college professor, and has legions of former students who – due to his honest, passionate, and fearless method of teaching – love him and see him as someone who has profoundly affected their lives. My friend has been practicing what I call “radical transparency” on Facebook. He posts several times a day about all the good and interesting things that are happening in his world, in addition to notes about his health and prognosis. “I can’t afford to go dark on this thing,” he told me, referring to his outlook on his health. Like all of us, he worries about the superficiality and value of Facebook. But here’s what I see: a man sharing his experience in an honest and human way that provides his friends and his “Friends’ with a model for dealing with mortality. And that makes him powerful.

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