TIME has floated an initial list of candidates for its Person of the Year award. The editors choose, of course, but they’ve also opened up polling through Dec. 12 to gather reader opinions.
Candidates include Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and Russian punk rebels Pussy Riot.
Tyrants get representation, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the list. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who just flashed his dictator stripes, also gets a nod.
Among the political picks? Vice President Joe Biden (“His verbal flubs and foibles can make him a punch line for Republican critics and occasionally even irk his own boss”), Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
Some of the left-field choices? Stephen Colbert, Undocumented Immigrants, and Sandra Fluke.
Here is how the polling is going thus far. Luckily, an especially worthwhile candidate is getting a good share of “definitely” votes.
Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Enemy No. 1 of the Taliban, is recovering in a British hospital after being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while going to school on Oct. 9. And that’s exactly what she was fighting for: the right to go to school, free of fear, free to achieve whatever she wants without being under the thumb of Islamist forces.
TIME writes that Malala “has become an inspiration not only in her native Pakistan — where the culture wars over women’s rights and religious diversity have taken many violent turns — but all around the globe.”
“Malala is now a first name that hundreds of thousands of people know. But in a way, hers is an even more moving story, because the saga is not just of a brave young girl but also of a father willing to risk local opprobrium to raise his daughter — not a son — as a proud example for the world.”
Today Malala made her first phone call — to Pakistani news anchor Hamid Mir, who was targeted in an assassination attempt yesterday, likely for giving so much coverage to Malala’s case (when she was out of their reach, the Taliban began targeting journalists who reported her story).
“Malala Yousafzai and her father just called me from UK and expressed their solidarity. Malala said that Insha Allah we will defeat terrorists,” Mir tweeted.
Yesterday, Malala topped Obama on Foreign Policy magazine’s list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers: she came it at No. 6, while the president was No. 7.
“The Taliban’s most fearsome enemy in Pakistan isn’t U.S. drones or the military’s tanks: It’s a 15-year-old schoolgirl. Malala Yousafzai’s tool of defiance? Her own bravery in speaking out for the simple idea that girls should have access to the same education as boys,” wrote FP. “That shouldn’t be a radical notion in 2012, but even as Pakistan bristles with roughly 100 nuclear warheads, up to 60 percent of women are still illiterate and two out of every five girls fail to finish primary school. Challenging the tyranny of those low expectations can get you killed in today’s Pakistan.”
Change in Pakistan will come from within, and it’s girls like Malala who will lead the way, fearlessly inspiring an entire generation. Make a statement to the TIME editors — vote Malala for Person of the Year.