Walmart’s most influential people

We know Alice Walton as one of the wealthiest people in America, a major shareholder in Walmart, and a prominent member of the Walmart 1%. To the art world, she is the collector with deep pockets behind the recently opened multi-billion dollar Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. And as of yesterday, TIME Magazine is calling her one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

TIME art critic Richard Lacayo explains Walton’s inclusion in the list, citing Crystal Bridges’ location far from big city art hubs, in Walmart and Walton’s hometown of Bentonville, AR; the museum’s famous architect; and Walton’s aggressive pursuit of her art collection.

In a letter to TIME readers, editor Rick Stengel writes of the concern that “self-interest can undermine the common good”:

We look for the antidote to this: how individuals can start a chain reaction of virtue, shaping events in ways that can become both viral and enduring.

We are living in a transformative period in which leadership and influence emerge in unlikely places.

Walton is indeed influential. She and her siblings own nearly half of a company that employs 1.4 million Americans. The average Walmart associate earns $8.81 an hour, and the same month that Alice Walton opened Crystal Bridges museum, Walmart slashed employees’ health benefits.

The question is how Walton will use her influence in the years to come. With their influence over Walmart, Alice Walton and her family could lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

What do you think?