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Princeton economics professor turned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scored the famous year-end Time cover, it was revealed today. “There is irony here,” notes Time managing editor Richard Stengel in an interview with Bernanke, “that here’s this man who spends his life distinguishing himself studying economic history—and then one day you wake up and realize that you’re at the center of economic history in a really unusual chapter.”

The mild-mannered—let’s say “nerdy,” since everyone else does—yet super-powerful policymaker becomes the third Jew to receive Time’s designation, after Yitzhak Rabin and Henry Kissinger, both of whom shared the honor with others. Bernanke grew up in Dillon, South Carolina, in “an observant Jewish family in a tight-knit Christian community where social life revolved around church.” What distinguished the Bernankes most, though, was not their religion but their attitude toward blacks: “Once,” we learn, Bernanke’s “house was egged after he ate dinner with a black friend named Kenneth Manning at the local Shoney’s.” Finally, Bernanke plays down his pre-Fed leadership experience, which was basically confined to heading Princeton’s economics department, thusly: “he liked to joke that his major decisions involved what type of bagels to order for faculty meetings.”

Person of the Year 2009 [Time]

Earlier: ‘Foreign Policy Names Top Global Thinkers





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