4. Samantha Power
Power, a journalist covering the Balkan wars of the 1990s, wrote the 2002 groundbreaking book on U.S. indifference to genocide, “A Problem From Hell,” before heading up Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. In 2005 she became an adviser to then-Senator Obama, helping him refine his foreign policy message. Power briefly stumbled in 2008 when a reporter relayed a derisive quote Power thought she gave off the record about Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Power rebounded. Today, she serves in the White House, where she directs multilateral and human rights affairs at the National Security Council. And, unsurprisingly, she contributed greatly to the president’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in December. Pundits didn’t know what to make of Obama’s complex and humane speech: Debate ensued about whether Obama’s defense of the Afghanistan war, aggressive promotion of human rights and vision of strong global institutions to promote those rights form an Obama Doctrine. But if the pundits had been paying attention to the career and ideas of Power, they might have understood.