How do you pick the 100 most influential men and women of 2005? Some people are obvious, thanks to their position; that is why George W. Bush is once again part of the TIME 100, along with Hu Jintao of China. Some, I think it is fair to say, were not household names a year ago, such as Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine. Some belong on the list because of how they set the agenda outside their day job (Bill Gates, for his charity work) or make their daytime-TV job into a guide for how to live a meaningful life (Oprah Winfrey). Others may be less obvious but by dint of their inventions (Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, who gave us the BlackBerry), writings (Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code) or bravery in the face of pain (Melissa Etheridge) are leaving their impression on the world.
We introduced the TIME 100 several years ago, when we selected the most influential people of the 20th century, culminating in Albert Einstein as Person of the Century. Last year, when we decided to select the 100 most influential people of 2004, we compiled and debated hundreds of names, and this year the process was no less complicated. Fewer than 20 people from the 2004 list made this year's list, which indicates that in our view their influence has dramatically increased over the past 12 months. If you were on last year's list but not on this year's, it does not necessarily mean your influence has waned, unless of course you're John Kerry or Carly Fiorina.
Once we made our selections, the fun began: asking the right person to make the case for the pick. TIME's journalists brilliantly fit the bill in many cases, but we also thought Henry Kissinger was a natural for Condoleezza Rice, as was Sean Penn for Clint Eastwood. (Sean the writer is no less a perfectionist than Sean the actor.) Donald Trump, who wrote about Martha Stewart, argued with us over a comma via telephone from his limo, pointing out that "I've written three best sellers!"
Some reflected on their own experiences in the spotlight, like basketball great Oscar Robertson on LeBron James and Quincy Jones on Juanes, the Latin pop star. Some--like Citigroup's Sallie Krawcheck, who wrote about eBay's Meg Whitman; Gloria Steinem on Winfrey; and Richard Branson on Airbus CEO Noël Forgeard--make their judgments with a cool eye, but others, like Lisa Marie Presley on Etheridge and the Rev. Billy Graham on John Stott, are surprisingly personal. Among my other favorites: Russell Simmons on Jay-Z; Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman on the show's creator, Marc Cherry; Bono on his good friend Jeffrey Sachs; and Tom Brokaw on Jon Stewart. Even political foes can make a good pair. James Carville on Karl Rove, anyone?
My thanks to Adi Ignatius, who organized and edited this year's installment, and the main members of his team: Marti Golon, Jay Colton, Barbara Maddux, Dietmar Liz-Lepiorz and Avi Litwack. And please be sure to visit TIME.com for more details about the TIME 100 and why we picked the ones we did.
James Kelly, Managing Editor