16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg named Time's Person of the Year - HISTORY
Year
2019
Month Day
December 13

16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg named Time's Person of the Year

On December 13, 2019, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg is named Time magazine's Person of the Year. The Swedish climate activist became the first Person of the Year to be born in the 21st century and the youngest ever to receive the honor.

Thunberg took to activism early, convincing her parents to become vegans, reduce their carbon footprint and avoid flying. In 2018, inspired by teenage gun control activists in the United States, she began a school strike that spread across Sweden and to other European countries. Before long, Thunberg was giving speeches throughout Europe and had become one of the most recognizable faces of climate activism. Thunberg delivered her message with a sense of urgency—"Our house is on fire," she said—that struck a chord with the public, particularly because it came from a child.

In August 2019, Thunberg sailed a solar-powered racing yacht across the Atlantic Ocean to promote carbon-neutral transit. After arriving in New York, she testified before the United States Congress and the U.N. Climate Action Summit, where she was characteristically blunt: "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"

Though Thunberg's message and mannerisms offended many on the right, her activism has made waves the world over. The Time cover announcing her as Person of the Year also touted "The Power of Youth," presaging the advent of the Sunrise Movement and other youth-led climate activism in the United States and across the world.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Saddam Hussein captured

After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured on December 13, 2003. Saddam’s downfall began on March 20, 2003, when the United States led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than ...read more

Al Gore concedes presidential election

Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on December 13 2000. In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White ...read more

The Rape of Nanking

During the Sino-Japanese War, Nanking, the capital of China, falls to Japanese forces, and the Chinese government flees to Hankow, further inland along the Yangtze River. To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be ...read more

Dick Van Dyke born

On December 13, 1925, Dick Van Dyke, the quintessential “nice guy” actor who would become known for his performances in such movie classics as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as the popular 1960s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, is born in West Plains, ...read more

Texas Seven prison break

On December 13, 2000, seven convicts break out of a maximum-security prison in South Texas, setting off a massive six-week manhunt. The escapees, dubbed the “Texas Seven” by the media, overpowered civilian employees and prison guards in the maintenance shop where they worked and ...read more

Battle of Fredericksburg

On December 13, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia repulses a series of attacks by General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The defeat was one of the most decisive loses for the Union army, and it dealt a serious ...read more