Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel，leader of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), became Germany's first woman chancellor on November 22, ending months of political uncertainty and ushering in a fragile new coalition of left and right that must prove it can revive Europe's biggest economy.
Merkel, the 51-year-old pastor's daughter, started her political career after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989: she joined democracy movements and soon entered conservative politics. Former conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl launched her early career by making her family and youth minister in his Cabinet. Fifteen years later, Merkel has reached Germany's highest political office; a breathtaking rise which was confirmed by a parliamentary vote in which 397 of the Bundestag's 614 members backed her -- easily enough for the majority she needed in the lower house.
Ireland's President Mary McAleese
President Mary McAleese has always been a breaker of barriers--and she has needed to be. For all her strong views on the need for change, the President remains firmly rooted within her church. `We love our churches,' she says. `They are our hearth and home. We want them to be places of open, not locked, doors.' And this not just within Ireland. She sees the meeting of Western religions with those from the East not as a dilution but an enrichment. `Reconciliation in Christ frees us from anxiety about our identity,' she says. `We exist in relation to him, not through comparison with those who differ from us.'
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark
Helen Clark was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand on 27 November 1999. Her rise to the top of New Zealand politics is the culmination of almost thirty years of involvement with the Labor Party, and the latest chapter in a remarkable story which began in New Zealand's provincial, conservative heartland.
Helen Clark was born in 1950, in Hamilton, and spent her first twelve years on the family sheep and cattle farm to the west of the city. She is the oldest of four girls. Away from politics, Helen Clark is a keen concert goer and opera lover and an enthusiastic supporter of the arts in general. Helen Clark is married to Dr Peter Davis, Professor of Sociology and head of the Sociology Department at Auckland University.
By serving as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage as well as Prime Minister, Helen Clark intends to give the arts in New Zealand a degree of prominence and support they have not previously enjoyed at the top political level. Helen Clark likes to keep fit through regular visits to the gym and has a passion for hiking and cross-country skiing. In January 1999 she climbed Africa's highest peak, the 5895m Mt Kilimanjaro.
Latvia’s President Vaira Vike-Freiberga
After retiring in 1997, she boarded a plane and returned to Latvia to head the Latvian Institute. A year later, she’s been drafted in as a dark-horse candidate for president; shocking observers, she won. Some doubted the red-headed woman who had no political experience and who spent almost 55 years outside Latvia could make it in the male-dominated world of Latvian politics. But she now heralded as Latvia’s most popular and arguably most competent leader. She’s up for reelection in 2003.