2. Barack Obama
for reimagining America's role in the world.
president | Washington
Obama entered the White House facing many seemingly intractable obstacles: two bloody, possibly unwinnable wars, an economic meltdown of 1930s-level proportions, and major congressional battles on public spending and health care, to name a few. These hard realities have made Obama -- a speaker notable for his soaring rhetoric and symbolic importance as the United States' first black president -- seem at times more like a fix-it guy than a visionary.
But in truth, he is both. He is an unapologetic wonk with a professorial bearing, a "radical incrementalist" (in the useful term of his detractors) who assesses, seeks advice, considers, seeks counsel again, and then tinkers. He is also a president with big ideas, particularly in his foreign policy. With his "smart power" mantra, the man who commands the world's most powerful military has diversified the United States' arsenal of foreign-policy tools by listening. He spoke to the Muslim world from Cairo, smoothed over a rift with Europe, and reached out to recalcitrant rogue states. He might yet fail. But if he succeeds, the sea change in America's relationship with the world could become a tidal wave.
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