Every year Time magazine makes a big splash with their 100 most influential people story. Divided into the four categories of leaders, artists, heroes and thinkers, it appears that more than one entry either has double duty or is slotted into the wrong category. (Glenn Beck in the leaders group? Shouldn’t he be in the artists/entertainers group? J.T. Wang, the CEO of Acer Group is also among those leaders when I would have thought he’d be more comfortable in the thinkers group, given his skill for guessing consumer consciousness.)
And while the gamechangers get a big part of the Time 100 pie---Barack Obama and Ron Bloom, the U.S. car czar who has seemed to save Detroit nearly single-handedly, are both included on the list---I am annually surprised, and perhaps a bit perturbed, that the ‘thinkers’ don’t ever include our industry. Now, I don’t think we’ll be landing in the heroes category, but surely we have a shot at edging out golf and cricket stars. Granted, the sports fellows have their legions of cheering fans, but those will be some seriously perturbed followers if we decided to withhold electricity from their abodes. Can Phil Mickelson power their fridges? I think not.
OK. I guess withholding power to show our … well, power … is a bit childish. Still, I wonder why the people who form the backbone of society---those who do things like keep the lights on and build the highways---are never honored in the same way that, say, Conan O’ Brien (who simply had an NBC chat snafu this year) or Sarah Palin (whose biggest news was joining Fox News) seem to have achieved with mere celebrity.
The Time 100 is filled with Tea Partiers and Twilighters, free trade businessmen, charity workers and celebrity advocates who use their prettiness to shine a light on the world’s ugliness. We love the limelighter, I guess. Unfortunately, as it is in Oz, we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. All the parts of our urban universe that actually run smoothly, like the power industry, get a bit taken for granted. We never care much unless someone shakes her booty on our TV or “saves” the booty of a declining system. (Both Lady Gaga and Temple Grandin, a booty shaker and a booty saver are on the list.)
Time declares that they are aiming for “the people who most affect our world,” but that doesn’t ring true. Most of the world isn’t impacted by Serena Williams or designer Marc Jacobs or the writers from “Lost.” In fact, I’d venture to guess that most of the world wouldn’t change a wit if those people disappeared in a gray cloud of nothingness like a “Lost”-esque smoke monster. Some might be saddened, of course, but I seriously doubt daily life for the world would be much altered, on the whole. Most of the world is, however, affected by changes in technology and infrastructure, like the growing smart grid movement and its sister trend, sustainable or smart cities. And, if they aren’t affected today, they will be tomorrow.
It would be delightful if, once, Time did a 100 list that reflected those people you don’t know about that keep your daily life---and most of the world’s daily life---going smoothly, from linemen to hometown farmers to nurses, from the hospital to the highway to your home. I would even add in those who are changing daily life in this industry arena, like energy policy gurus and renewables engineers and thinkers. In fact, if given a real choice in the matter, the “artist” section of Time’s 100 would be replaced with “industry,” and power would have a large chunk of the kudos.
After all, artists and entertainers get enough money and notoriety from their movies, music, art and musings. Do we really need to add extra fire to that ego by telling them they’re the most important people in all the world---especially when, literally, that’s really not true?
(I will fess up that Elon Musk, best known as the science mind behind “Iron Man,” but also a man who pushed Solar City, is on the Time list. But, I personally find that “inclusion by accident,” one might say. If Musk hadn’t helped Tony Stark take to the cinema sky, I doubt seriously he’d be on the list at all.)
If the power industry were to make its own list of most influential people, who would you put on it? I’d include Steven Chu, of course, that American physicist, Nobel Prize winner and 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy. His leadership with the smart grid grants has been phenomenal. I’d also be tempted to add in visionary Eddie O’Connor, that loud and open proponent of an offshore supergrid. And, finally, with my two cents, I’d nominate Preston Kissman.
Yes, Preston Kissman.
Who is Preston Kissman? He’s the vice president of distribution operations for the Public Service Company of Oklahoma, which delightfully keeps the lights and TVs a-rollin’ in my abode. So, Preston Kissman, to me, you top Lady Gaga as a most influential person---and you do not have to wrap yourself in police tape or make a Quentin Tarantino rip-off video to do so. In fact, Preston, I’d greatly appreciate it if you didn't wrap yourself in police tape and simply just kept doing what you’re doing---just keeping my lights happily twinkling.
I’d put in a call to Time about Preston, but I have a distinct gut feeling that they wouldn’t call me back.
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