25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World

  • 162 Visionaries Cover

  • 162 Visionaries Cover

Nelson Mandela didn’t always look like a visionary. In fact, for 27 years, he simply looked like a prisoner, locked up in South African jail cells for his antiapartheid activism. But what seemed like a long exercise in futility is now the stuff of legend: After his release in 1990 he became his country’s president, and today he’s celebrated not as an outlaw but as an icon of commitment and compassion.

Fortunately, visionary thinkers aren’t always imprisoned, but they are often ridiculed, marginalized, or just plain dismissed for proposing big ideas that may sound outlandish to others. Get people to invest in local food systems? Good luck with that. Identify and dismantle the roots of violence? Sure you will. Create a global grassroots movement to halt climate change? Very funny.

Yet these are just a few of the lofty, laudable, and reachable goals of the 25 forward thinkers featured on the following pages. Instead of pushing these women and men to the edges, as our politics and media often do, we aim to celebrate their courage and encourage both admiration and emulation.

The 2010 Utne Reader Visionaries come from many backgrounds and disciplines. What they have in common is that rare ability to dream of a better future—so vividly and so passionately—that it inspires them and others to action. For, as Nelson Mandela proved beyond a doubt, the only thing that can stop forward progress is resignation.

Julian Assange
The Sunshine Kid
Launched in 2007, WikiLeaks publishes classified documents—like the Apache helicopter video film of the shooting of the Reuters newsmen—that would otherwise never see the light of day. A notorious Australian ex-hacker, Julian Assange is only one of a dozen, mostly anonymous, people who helped set up the site, but he’s become the face of WikiLeaks and a tireless proponent of exposing the ruling class’s dirty secrets. Read more >> 

Alex Gibney
The Smartest Guy in the Room
“If you’re entertaining people, you can say almost anything you want,” declares documentarian Alex Gibney, offering an aptly playful description of his hard-hitting, info-jammed, message-minded cinema. From Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) through this year’s Casino Jack and the United States of Money and the new Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Gibney coats his bitter pills with the sugar of dark comedy, as the men too big to fail—the men in whom we ordinary schmoes invest our trust, if not our cash—inevitably slip on banana peels. Read more>> 

Coquina Deger
10/10/2011 12:04:04 PM

I'd like to offer my personal and heartfelt congratulations to longtime friend, colleague, inspiration, and partner in streaming health to the planet, Dr. Tabatha Parker, for being honored on this list of top 25 visionaries -- not surprising at all. Anyone curious about Dr. Parker's work in global health can read her interview with the AANMC here >> http://www.aanmc.org/caree​rs/alumni-leaders-in-the-f​ield/tabatha-parker-profil​e.php

12/13/2010 10:20:03 AM

Jullian Assange should be taken off your list. I dont know what the exact qualifications are but you would not put Mao or Hitler up there even though they were both visionaries who were changing the world. Assange is an enemy of the United States and in all likely hood a rapist. This is not a left right issue this is just common since.

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