20. Mohamed ElBaradei
for proving that there are second acts in public life.
Democracy activist | Egypt
No one could accuse this Nobel Peace Prize laureate of taking the easy jobs. During his 12-year stint as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei took on some of the world's worst nuclear proliferators -- not to mention U.S. President George W. Bush, who resented the Egyptian lawyer's unwillingness to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
But after leaving the IAEA in 2009, ElBaradei gave himself an even more challenging task: bringing democracy to Egypt. In doing so, he has put himself on a collision course with gerontocratic President Hosni Mubarak, the 82-year-old ruler of Egypt for the past three decades.
Mubarak has found his leading critic a hard man to discredit. ElBaradei has organized a political front meant to unite Egypt's opposition and launched an eloquent attack on an Egyptian political system rigged to ensure the Mubarak family's continued hold on power. He recently called for a boycott of November's parliamentary elections, arguing that participating would only lend credibility to a regime on its last legs.
"I see a decaying temple, almost collapsing," ElBaradei says of Mubarak's rule. "It will fall sooner rather than later."
Mohammed Khalil/AFP/Getty Images