This year, Donald Trump was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Beating out several other finalists, including Beyonce, Simone Biles, and Hillary Clinton, Trump surely made 2016 a year to remember.


Despite the volatile, divided election, 2016 was still a momentous year for many reasons. We had our first female presidential candidate, the Olympics, and the first African-American president of the United States will finish out his term with a scandal-free legacy. Indeed, 2016 in many ways has been inspirational. Hopefully reading some of the accomplishments of these athletes, artists, politicians, technology titans, journalists, and religious leaders will give all of us the nudge to achieve more greatness for ourselves.


Michael Phelps



One of the greatest athletes to ever live, Michael Phelps finished out his career with a stunning Olympics performance this summer. In his fifth turn at the Olympics, this time in Rio de Janiero, he won five golds and one silver as the oldest individual gold medalist in Olympic swimming history. With 28 medals to his name, he has the most medal wins of any Olympic athlete.

While there was some initial speculation about his possibly returning to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, he confirmed he is retiring. While many professional victories happened for him this year, it was also a momentous year for him, personally; his son, Boomer, was born in May, and he got married to longtime girlfriend, Nicole Johnson.


Lin-Manuel Miranda and the “Hamilton” cast

The musical, “Hamilton” debuted in 2015, but 2016 was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s year. The show was nominated for a record-breaking 16 nominations, and Miranda won his second Tony as a composer for a Broadway musical after “In the Heights.” He wrote for Disney’s “Moana” and gave a heart-wrenching speech about the importance of love during his Tony acceptance speech after the shootings at Orlando nightclub, Pulse.



According to Time Magazine, the show raked in $32 million in ticket sales before opening on Broadway.

But what made “Hamilton” so revolutionary was the unique diversity it brought on Broadway. After casting Latino and African-American actors as the founding fathers and mothers of our country, the show has raised awareness about the importance of promoting diversity on stage.

The “Hamilton” cast also made headlines after openly challenging Vice President-elect Mike Pence about his new administration.

Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who is now playing Vice President Burr on Broadway, delivered this speech to the “Hamilton” audience when Pence came to see the show:

“We, sir — we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”


Barack Obama



After making history eight years ago as he was elected the country’s first African-American president, Obama will finish out his term as America’s leader in January.

Despite what some think of what he accomplished during his presidency, his term was remarkably dignified and scandal-free. The New York Times even published an article commending his “model of class and dignity.”

It was also a year that brought changes to his personal life; his daughter, Malia turned 18 and graduated from high school, with plans to go to Harvard the next school year.


The Zuckerbergs

(Zuckerberg Initiative)

(Zuckerberg Initiative)

A tech titan and a pediatrician are using their talents, intelligence, and influence to make the world better. The Zuckerbergs made headlines in NPR after announcing a $3 billion initiative called Chan Zuckerberg Science.


The initiative brings scientists and engineers from Stanford, the University of California in Berkeley, and the University of California in San Francisco. They plan to fund a new research center called the Biohub that will be funded at $600 million dollars. They hope to use research to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by 2020.


Gwen Ifill

(LJ World)

(LJ World)

Many were shocked after hearing the great Gwen Ifill died unexpectedly of uterine cancer in November.

As a female, African-American broadcast journalist, Ifill was a rarity in a field dominated by white men. She accomplished much in her illustrious career; she was the moderator and managing editor of the program “Washington Week,” co-anchored PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff, and moderated the Democratic primary debate last spring after moderating two past vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008.

Ifill was revolutionary in journalism, helping pave the way for future female journalists of color, like herself. Don Lemon choked up after her death, citing her as one of the most “talented journalists of our time.”




Pope Francis



As the current Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been noted as a model for humility, an advocate for the poor and an encourager of peace and unity among several faiths.

He criticizes corruption in politics, washes and kisses the feet of Muslim, Christian and Hindu refugees, and advocates for protecting our planet, calling climate change a “sin.”

Pope Francis also made headlines during the election year after denouncing Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, citing it “not Christian.”


Do you think these 6 people are the most influential cultural figures of 2016? Tweet @issabasco.