Transcript: Steve Jobs as Time’s 2011 Person of the Year

November 9, 2011, 1:10 PM UTC

Apple’s late CEO would be the first dead man — or woman — to win the honor

Click to enlarge. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty

Steve Jobs’ name came up Tuesday — it has many times since 1982 — in a panel discussion organized by Time Magazine to help promote the 2011 Person of the Year.

Jobs was nominated by NBC’s Brian Williams (see video here) and the proposal was seconded — sort of — by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and restauranteur Mario Batali.

Actor Jesse Eisenberg, who played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, thought Apple’s (AAPL) co-founder an odd choice while Wall Street was still being occupied.

Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers liked the idea of “the hero CEO — guy who makes things we use,” but cast his lot, like Eisenberg, with “Angry People.”

The problem with Jobs for Anita Hill, the woman who nearly derailed Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination, was that he lacked, in her words, “a generosity of spirit.” What he wanted to spread, she said, “was really sort of about him.”

The final decision, of course, rests with a handful of editors at Time who have never felt beholden to the celebrities they invite to these debates. For what happened in 1982 — and how Jobs reacted when he learned that the editors had chosen a “the computer” over him — see here.

Below: A partial transcript of the Steve Jobs portion of the debate, courtesy of Time Inc.

Brian Williams on his choice for 2011 Person of the Year – Steve Jobs: “One guy, who changed our world, and I said to Seth Meyers as we walked across 6th Ave, ‘Just look with me on this one block walk at how he changed the world around us. Look at how he changed the world.’ Not only did he change the world, but he gave us that spirit again that something was possible that you could look at a piece of plastic or glass and move your finger – that’s outlandish. You could make things bigger or smaller like that. ‘Oh the places you’ll go’ and oh the way you will change forever the music and television industries. So may he rest in peace, Steve Jobs, and the spirit he represents, are my nominee for Person of the Year.”

Jesse Eisenberg on his choice for 2011 Person of the Year – The Populists: “Well first of all, I think it’s a wonderful idea and obviously there’s no dispute that Steve Jobs’ impact has been monumental. It seems to me if it’s this year, with Steve Jobs, he was not my selection because I thought about him and it felt kind of like a lifetime achievement honor. To me, this year it seemed to me that the major kind of news stories and the major shifts –globally and domestically – have been made by individuals that have formed together to resist, reject, and oftentimes even topple leaders and individuals. And they’ve been movements of populism and so I thought this year kind of the notion of the populist – of these individuals – domestically we have the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement and then internationally the Arab Spring – have been made up by individuals that are part of populist movements. And it almost seems that in a year where those movements have caused the greatest world shifts, an individual as the POY almost might undercut the significance of those movements made by populists.”

Seth Meyers on his choice for 2011 Person of the Year – Angry People:

“Well you know, Brian… I thought we had agreed that you would pick me if I picked you, so if I look a little stunned with the Steve Jobs selection then uh … I feel this contract has been broken.”

“If Europe’s still around by the time you guys go to press, I’d think Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy… I think a lot of people don’t realize how scary it is and I think they probably acted too late and I don’t quite think it’s all going to work out over there. I’m very pessimistic about things. I think if you win Person of the Year for 2011 it’s probably going to be a bummer years from now.”

“I think I would join with Jesse and I do think that Angry People are the Person of the Year because I think they’re right to be angry.”

“You know the last time I was on this panel was 2008 and I think everybody agreed … it was a fait accompli that Obama was going to be the Person of the Year, we were in the middle of the financial crisis, we thought, I hoped that by 2011 things would be better, I don’t’ think they’re better. “

“I think it would be a mistake to put almost any politician on the cover for 2011 because I don’t think much has been done.”

“As a comedy writer, I could also pick the GOP Presidential field for Person of the Year.”

Grover Norquist on his choice for 2011 Person of the Year – Mohamed Bouazizi:

“The Tunisian fruit vendor who sort of triggered the Arab Spring because I’m not sure I can find another person you would look to in Egypt, Libya, Siria… but Mohamed Bouazizi was the fruit vendor who had taken too much harassment from the police and the bureaucrats … he just wanted to sell fruit and the government was interfering with his ability to do that and he burned himself in December, but passed away this year.”

“But I think he (Bouazizi) set off something that wouldn’t have happened without his act, at least not when it did.”

“Steve Jobs also somebody that I would be in support of.”

Mario Batali on his choice for Person of the Year – Steve Jobs, Michael Pollen or The Bankers:

“I like Steve Jobs I think he did a really good job, changing the way people behave. In terms of changing the way people think, I’m a big fan of Michael Pollen.”

“I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention across the board and everywhere is the entire banking industry and their disregard for the people they’re supposed to be working for…The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys…They’re not heroes, but they are people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating.”

“I’m definitely a part of the fact and the belief that smart phones, the cell phone with photographic capability, has changed the world as much as the bible has.”

“Nothing has brought people so together in order to understand each other’s common plight and so far we’ve been using it to describe the disasters of the world. When one day we discover a way to discover the beauty and the smartness of the world in the same thing it will be a really great thing.”

Anita Hill on her choices for 2011 Person of the Year – Social Justice, Esraa Abdel Fatah, Elizabeth Warren

  • On the Social Justice for Person of the Year: “I like what both of you are saying about spirit because what we want is somebody who can capture the spirit of the times. There are different ways to think about the spirit of the times. What I see as the spirit of the times is a movement towards social justice. It’s taken different forms – it’s taken form in this sort of pro-democracy form when we talk about Arab Spring. It’s taken the form of individual or women’s rights when we talk about issues related to the whole variety thing, including sexual harassment. So I think social justice really is the direction we are going in terms of bridging inequalities and that’s a spirit that I think is not necessarily captured by someone like Steve Jobs, although I think he’s certainly an important figure.”
  • On Esraa Abdel Fatah: “There’s a young woman from Egypt who was one of the lead organizers of the Arab Spring or Cairo spring as I guess it’s called – a woman named Esraa Abdel Fatah who started out as a organizer of textile workers and then joined the movement in Cairo and has continued and now is organizing to help women be involved in the democracy that is coming to the region. That’s one person.”
  • On Elizabeth Warren for Person of the Year: “The other person that I think who has really captured something really essential in this country in terms of her own personal spirit, but also the work that she’s done: Elizabeth Warren. What she did, to go in to challenge Washington, D.C. and the entrenched politics with regard to consumer rights, establishing an agency in a climate that was really resistant to it, in an effort to protect the middle class, which is something she’s been doing all of her life… Her work captures the American imagination in the spirit, but also her personality – her life story.”

[Author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness] Touré on whether Steve Jobs should be 2011 Person of the Year:Brian, I hear you and a lot of others talking about steve jobs. Steve jobs had an incredible life that changed almost everybody, but did he have an extraordinary year? It seems like giving it to him, like the Oscars when someone had good movie not great movie-but better body of work throughout career.”

Brian: “Notion of how it feels more like lifetime achievement award. I’m looking for someone to be emblematic, what reminds us of our better experience. There were Apple fanatics who saw that…there’s not people who always broadly understood. It was his death that made people focus on achievement.”

Seth Meyers: “There is something about him—the hero CEO — guy who makes things we use.”

Anita Hill: “Problem I have with the Steve Jobs is I don’t feel there was a generosity of spirit. It was something he wanted to spread and was really sort of about him and seemed to be what drove him… what I’d like to see more of is a sense of more of a democratic spirit that other people can do same thing that I’m doing and not just doing the things they envision.”