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People of the
Year: Sunil Babu Pant, Hilary Rosen, Suze Orman

People of the
Year: Sunil Babu Pant, Hilary Rosen, Suze Orman


This week is going to highlight our remaining People of the Year, who range from activists to entertainers, politicians to students. Today we take a look at political analyst Hilary Rosen, finance guru Suze Orman, and Nepalese activist-turned-politician Sunil Babu Pant.

This week is going to highlight our remaining People of the Year, who range from activists to entertainers, politicians to students. Today we take a look at political analyst Hilary Rosen, finance guru Suze Orman, and Nepalese activist-turned-politician Sunil Babu Pant.

Orman is still keeping us sane through this financial crisis, sassily reminding us to remember her mantra: people first, then money, then things.

Pant has been fighting for rights on gay, environmental, and poverty issues for years, but the Nepalese activist was elected as the first openly gay member of his country's 601-member Constituent Assembly.

Rosen stuck out among an army of CNN pundits, giving some LGBT background to many stories, all while directing The Huffington Post's political coverage during the 2008 election.

Suze Orman

Orman memorably came out in a 2007 issue of The New York Times Magazine ("K.T. is my life partner ... I have never been with a man in my whole life. I'm still a 55-year-old virgin"), but it was in 2008 that the financial expert came into her own. Long a hero to readers of her bestselling handbooks and her column in O: The Oprah Magazine and viewers of her CNBC money show, Orman cast a wider net this year, increasing her national profile and influence thanks to a sputtering world economy. She starred in public service announcements for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., reminding American depositors their savings would survive even if their banks didn't. Her straight talk ("Listen here, boyfriend!") and numerous appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, and The Today Show were lampooned in a series of good-natured Saturday Night Live skits.

Orman's increasing visibility has transcended her sexual orientation; she's not infamous for being gay, she's famous for being smart and entertaining. That's not to say the former waitress has shied away from gay causes--at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner in October, she proudly accepted the group's National Equality Award in front of a rapt Washington, D.C., audience . She didn't say just thank her publicist; she took the opportunity to remind the crowd that money is indeed power, and if gays don't save and spend wisely, they'll continually be outmaneuvered by their foes. She described a discussion she had with HRC president Joe Solmonese, where she vowed to help him in any way possible. "If you think that I'm not going to use my title given to me in May as one of [Time's] 100 most influential people in this world to help you and me both," she said before pausing with masterful effect, "you are wrong!" -- Neal Broverman

Sunil Babu Pant

Sunil Babu Pant first heard the word "homosexual" in 1992 while on scholarship to study computer science in Belarus. It took another five years, during a three-month trek through Japan, for him to first experience sexual freedom. These two firsts have paved the way for others. For example, as founder and president of the Blue Diamond Society, an LGBT rights organization in Nepal, Pant was instrumental in making his country the first in South Asia to protect gay rights. In a landmark ruling last December, Nepal's supreme court guaranteed sexual minorities--lesbians, gay men, and bisexual, transgender, and intersex people -- the same rights as other citizens.

But of all the trails he's blazed, becoming the first gay man elected to Nepal's 601-member Constituent Assembly this April may provide the most lasting effects on equality. After telling The Advocate this spring that "third genders -- and other LGBTIs are excluded and believed to have no capacity to contribute to society in Nepal," Pant is now part of a governmental body responsible for drafting the nation's new constitution.

"In the past, it was like 'Don't kill us, recognize us,'" Pant told The New York Times in September. "Now, it will be like changing our livelihood. We will focus on equal justice, economic, and cultural rights." And while Pant says he's looking ahead to other issues like pollution and the environment, he's not ready to give up on his first mission just yet. "There is a lot yet to be done," he says.

Hilary Rosen

Over three decades as lobbyist, strategist and, most recently, political analyst, Hilary Rosen has worn some high-profile hats in Washington, D.C. "I'm a public policy wonk," says the 50-year-old, whose mother was the first city councilwoman in West Orange, N.J. "I am fascinated by the political process and the policy that it creates."

But Rosen's political influence isn't confined to politicos. She once served as CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (her favorite recording artist is Madonna) and later consulted for top media clients. The combination of talents put her in good position this year to become a CNN pundit and the political director of The Huffington Post.

"During the election I played a different role and focused almost exclusively on media," she says. "I worked with the campaigns and other Democratic 'talkers' on media strategy. I was usually an on-air and online advocate for the campaigns -- but occasionally I disagreed with something and called it as I saw it. I've been very fortunate that I am able to speak truth to power and do it in a way that -- rather than be shunned -- people like working with me and respect my advice."

A vocal backer of Hillary Clinton during the primaries, Rosen says she easily transitioned to supporting Barack Obama after he secured the Democratic nomination. "When it comes time to accomplish public policy goals, I am a pragmatist," she says. "When Barack Obama sets lofty goals and yet says he will spend his early time focusing on what is achievable, I appreciate the practicality."

On Election Night, Rosen drew upon her extensive background in LGBT advocacy and became one of the first panelists to note the mounting state losses on same-sex marriage and adoption initiatives. At The Huffington Post, where she started working in May, her experience yielded profound insight about how gay and lesbian interests fit into the broader national picture. "There is a huge amount of support in the progressive blogosphere and the progressive community in general for LGBT issues," she says. "I wonder whether we do enough to mobilize that support effectively."

Rosen, who is raising twins Anna and Jacob with ex-partner and former Human Rights Campaign head Elizabeth Birch, feels that gay and lesbian Americans have legitimate reason to feel hopeful, despite the recent setbacks. "My expectations and hopes are as large as they can be," she says, adding that employment nondiscrimination and hate-crimes legislation could be within reach soon, along with repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But on the more contentious issue of marriage equality, she thinks "we'll end up seeing some creative approaches to partner benefits that will fall short of marriage and will disappoint a lot of people."

Whatever Obama delivers, Rosen is likely to be there to analyze it in her typically powerful way. "I sort of view my role as the helpful outsider," she says.


On what she learned about politics from her mother:

My mother wasn't a power politician. She was a graceful one. And she listened. She knew her constituents and what they wanted. Knowing when to listen and stop talking is the hallmark of a good politician.

On making the transition from a Clinton supporter to an Obama supporter:

I was definitely emotionally invested in Hillary's run for all sorts of personal and historic reasons, but not so invested that I wasn't also proud of Barack Obama and thought of him as a transformational leader. So I think the transition for me was relatively easy to support Obama.

On lessons learned from Proposition 8 and other state amendment defeats:

What we've seen in some respects is that we are too reactive as a community. You didn't really see the act of engagement and energy and outreach until after we did lose.

On her own career trajectory:

I have worked in Washington as a staffer, a lobbyist, a journalist, and an activist. I guess I know all the angles. Hopefully I put the knowledge to good use on behalf of things that matter.

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