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

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

This week
Advocate.com 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 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

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
t
his 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.

 Hilary Rosen (Marissa Rauch) | Advocate.com

"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.

Excerpts

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.

Tags: World, World

Latest videos on Advocate

From our Sponsors

READER COMMENTS ()