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TIME Person of the Year 2012 is Barack Obama

Barack Obama is the TIME Magazine Person of the Year for the second time, the magazine announced on the Today show on Wednesday. 

Why was the president chosen? As managing editor Rick Stengel writes in his editor’s letter, “We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.”

Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her crusade for better girls’ education, was the first runners-up.

As it has for the past 85 years, the weekly newsmagazine selected the person (or sometimes group, or thing) that its editors deemed had the single greatest impact during the past year, for better or for worse.

TIME's Person of the Year has been a perennial topic of year-end debate ever since aviator Charles Lindbergh was chosen the first Man of the Year back in 1927 (the title was amended to Person of the Year in 1999). But the title is not necessarily an accolade; while many presidents, political leaders, innovators and captains of industry have been cited, some of the more notorious Persons of the Year include Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in 1943 and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. There have also been more conceptual choices, such as “the American Fighting-Man” (1950), “Middle Americans” (1969), and last year’s choice, "The Protester."

This marks the second time that Obama has won the award. 

In 2008, the president beat out politicians Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, comedian Tina Fey, Olympian Michael Phelps, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, oil executive and renewable energy proponent T. Boone Pickens, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Zhang Yimou, director of the Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

The 2012 runners-up for the award were (in descening order): Malala Yousafzai,; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi; and Fabiola Gianotti, one of the lead researchers working on the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Kind of a meh line-up, if you ask me. 

Debate will, of course, now rage over whether or not the president — who has been criticized for his inability to turn around the economy (see: high unemployment), his role is possible human rights issues (Guantanamo Bay), and his sometimes hawkish foreign policy (especially with drone strikes) — deserves yet another high-profile award.

Here is a look at the TIME cover, out this week: 

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