The Most Influential Contemporary Americans

List Rules
Americans who are alive today (or who died less than 20 years ago) and have impacted the way Americans live their lives

A list of the Americans who have had the most central influence on, or importance to, the modern era. This would include Americans who have most significantly altered the course of events from roughly the 1980s onward. So while someone like Ronald Reagan or Steve Jobs might very well apply, figures like Franklin D. Roosevelt or even Martin Luther King Jr. would probably not be considered contemporary enough to qualify.

Americans from every walk of life and every industry have managed to profoundly influence the country. This can include efforts to alter the culture or perspective of Americans, technological or scientific innovations that forever changed the way we live, business achievements which altered the course of one or multiple industries, or political decisions that permanently shifted later events in America and the world.

Vote for the important Americans below you think had the greatest impact on the way we live today. Or if you don't see your selection, add it by making your own list.

  • Bill Gates
    Photo: Paolo Bona / Shutterstock
    3,054 VOTES
    • Profession: Programmer, Software Architect, Businessperson, Investor, Entrepreneur
    • Age: 66
  • 2
    3,043 VOTES
    • Profession: Businessperson, Entrepreneur, Inventor, Designer
    • Age: Dec. at 56 (1955-2011)
  • Ronald Reagan
    Photo: Michael Evans / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    3,503 VOTES
    • Profession: Spokesperson, Politician, Soldier, Lifeguard, Radio personality
    • Age: Dec. at 93 (1911-2004)
  • Fred Rogers
    Photo: Getty Images / Getty Images
    542 VOTES
    • Profession: Television Show Host, Songwriter, Television producer, Educator, Screenwriter
    • Age: Dec. at 74 (1928-2003)