This is one of those lists that, for me, feels nearly limitless: 12 people from the past who you would like to meet. I'm sure I could name several dozen.
To narrow it down, I'm arbitrarily defining "the past" as people who have been dead at least 50 years. (I turn 50 this year, and I'm deciding I can't use anyone who was alive during my lifetime.) So I can't hang out with Howard Zinn, and Cesar Chavez is out, along with my first writing hero, John Steinbeck, and my pal Woody Guthrie.
They must be people who are known by name. I would love to time-travel and hang out with an ordinary pre-contact Incan, an ancient Mesopotamian, the people who built Stonehenge, some radical labour organizers from the early 1900s, World War I war resisters, Europeans who hid Jews from the Nazis. And on and on. But for this list, we'll name specific people whose names we know.
Please put aside any concerns about how overwhelmed you might be, how silly you might act, how inarticulate you might feel. We'll just assume we could have a pint, talk about life, find out who these people were. No language barriers, either.
I've chosen people I revere and admire, but I know some readers will choose people they revile. I expect a few dictators will pop up in these lists.
I'm finding it really difficult to limit myself to 12! But here are 12 of the many people in history who I would like to meet.
1. George Orwell
2. Margaret Sanger
3. William Shakespeare
4. Lou Gehrig
5. Harriet Tubman
6. Amelia Earhart
8. Charles Dickens
9. Samuel Pepys
10. Emma Goldman
11. Oscar Wilde
12. Mark Twain
[Update: My number one "should have included": Clarence Darrow. Not sure who I would lose - Wilde or Twain.]