For the past 13 years, the staff of the Long Island Press has been attempting to identify, and rank, the 50 most influential people on Long Island. We call it the “Power List,” and its origins date back to our very first issue, in 2003.
It’s a curious list, to be sure, and generates a great deal of questions, as well as strong emotions.
“What really defines true Power?”
“Is one’s Power even quantifiable?”
“How does one get on the Power List, anyhow!?”
The word “Power,” as we explain nearly every year, can mean many different things for many different people. For sure, possessing a lot of money or real estate or commanding a workforce of thousands or being the final say on legislation that will affect millions equates into power. Yet so too, can being the nameless, faceless person behind the scenes pulling the strings, advising those wealthy executives or elected officials, authoring said legislation or declarations to rule the masses.
“Power,” then, also constitutes influence. Yet having a ton of money or being a top business executive or holding an elected political office or playing the puppet master doesn’t necessarily translate into wielding true power. At least not in our book.
For inclusion on the Power List, honorees must: 1) Live on Long Island. 2) Demonstrate real, tangible influence over residents’ thoughts or actions, whether the public knows it or not. As we remind each year as well, notoriety and impossible wealth do not necessarily qualify an individual on this list, nor does lobbying for inclusion (the latter does more to hurt chances, actually).
Those who achieve inclusion on the Power List for five years additionally gain entry into the Power List Hall of Fame.
Last year, in commemoration of the 12th such compilation, we unveiled a new website to house not only the current year of honorees, their respective rankings, along with a digital edition, but all the Power Lists since its inception more than a decade ago. It also includes all those who’ve achieved induction into the Power List Hall of Fame (and these really funny caricatures that accompany each).
Check Out The Power List Website Here: longislandpress.com/powerlist
Historically, the annual Power List has included a varied smorgasbord of Long Island’s movers, shakers, and hellraisers.
There have been CEOs. Politicians. Media moguls (at least one who moonlights as a local rock star). Academics. Business owners. TV stars. And scientists.
There have been environmental activists. Whistleblowers. Community leaders. Education advocates. And regular, every day Long Islanders, who’ve stood up in the face of tremendous challenges and adversity at equally tremendous costs, to themselves, their families, and their causes.
Yes, accompanying the aforementioned emotions churned up by each year’s Power List is a decent amount of criticism and outrage.
“The criticism usually comes from a parochial place whereby people believe that we have made stunning omissions based upon their own experiences with people that impact their daily lives,” we explained last year. “The outrage is generally directed at the preponderance of older white men that appear on the list.”
That’s because, as we remind at the unveiling of each and every incarnation: The Power List is a mirror, not a wish list.
The Power List is an opportunity to shine a well-deserved spotlight on the lives and efforts of some whom would otherwise go unrecognized, unheralded, unknown, and bring much-needed attention and awareness to their causes. It likewise intensifies the spotlight on the efforts and actions of those already in the limelight. It therefore then also serves as an opportunity to spark much-needed conversations about who we are, as Long Islanders, what can be improved, and in what direction, exactly, our beloved Island is headed.
Part and parcel of the annual list is the Power List gala. This gathering is unique on Long Island. No other event that we know of brings together such a varied collection of Long Islanders under one roof. There are literally activists rubbing elbows with billionaires. Open space advocates sharing a platter of salmon with developers. Political nemeses from both the Democratic persuasion and the GOP laughing together, replacing mudslinging barbs with handshakes.
Each annual Power List also has a theme. For the 2015 Power List it is “The Power of Imagination and Innovation,” and its gala was held within Canon U.S.A.’s Americas headquarters, in Melville. The venue epitomized these ideals, since Canon is a global leader in both.
In 2015, Canon was granted more U.S. patents than tech giants Amazon and Google. Its 768,000-square foot, LEED Silver-certified, 52-acre campus corporate headquarters boasts printing facilities as well as a massive showroom, where guests were led through guided tours showcasing not just the company’s countless photography equipment and related products, but its new, state-of-the-art biomedical creations, which aim to revolutionize this ever-growing industry.
Canon U.S.A.’s Executive Vice President Seymour Liebman is among those honored on the 2015 Power List. So is Jon Stepanian, organizer & coordinator at nonprofit Long Island Food Not Bombs, and president & CEO of Community Solidarity, Inc., the largest vegetarian hunger relief program in the United States. And Diane Gaines, executive director of nonprofit The Woman’s Opportunity Rehabilitation Center (WORC). And Rev. Craig Robinson, pastor of AME Bethel Church in Bay Shore.
As the saying goes, power can often corrupt, and just as easily be used toward nefarious ends as a force for good. Unchecked power can have devastating consequences. Independent, dedicated to amplifying the voice of the voiceless and holding those in power accountable, the staff of the Long Island Press takes its role as protectors against such abuse and abusers very, very seriously. Inclusion on the Power List in no way excludes those honored from a good, old-fashioned Press takedown.
We therefore hope all who adorn the Power List will do their very best within their collective powers to use their influence in the best interests of the public at large, utilizing their “Power” to elevate those around them who are in need.
That is true power.
So check out the Power List website. Familiarize yourself with these honorees, and their causes. Recognize that “power” lies within each and every single one of us, famous or not—and that it’s equally up to each one of us to hold those in power accountable and ensure they wield their power and influence toward the betterment of society.