But this year also provided many people who make us hopeful for 2017. Here are some of the people that inspired us this year:
While it sounds like she won't be running for president anytime soon, the first lady had a big 2016 that included a number of high-profile speeches on the campaign trail. But these were no mere stump speeches. Obama delivered some of the most important statements this year on feminism and the American Dream and gave what some have called the greatest convention speech ever at the Democratic National Convention. All the while, she continued to push initiatives like Let Girls Learn, which she launched in 2015 to increase young girls' access to a quality education.
Chance the Rapper
The 23-year-old Chicagoan not only released one of the best albums of the year with Coloring Book and revolutionized what it means to be an independent artist, he also met with President Barack Obama to talk about racial justice and Barack Obama to talk about racial justice and led a parade to early polling sites days before the November election in an attempt to get out the youth vote.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
When the Flint pediatrician began her fight to expose the city's water crisis, she was attacked as an "unfortunate researcher," she told CNN this past January. But she kept pushing, and the crisis — which is ongoing — was brought to national attention. Hanna-Attisha said in a recent interview with ColorLines that while the water quality in Flint has improved, it still cannot be consumed without a filter. "I think a lot of our real work in Flint is very much beginning," she told the magazine.
"What I'm doing now is trying to prevent future Flints, so that no other community — no other child — has to go through what we went through, and to make regulations, laws, policies, community awareness and education so more children are protected," Hanna-Attisha said.
Laura Jane Grace
Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and other trans activists continued their push for justice and awareness in 2016. To their names, add Laura Jane Grace — the frontwoman for the venerable punk outfit Against Me! She released another critically acclaimed album, Shape Shift With Me; burned her birth certificate onstage to protest North Carolina's "bathroom bill;" and in November published her memoir, Tranny, which she said dealt with the "shame, internalized transphobia and self-loathing" she experienced when she came out in 2012.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan
In one of the most iconic moments of the 2016 election, the Gold Star parents whose son was killed in Iraq called out Donald Trump for disrespecting Muslims and other groups in America.
"Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with their future," Khizr Kahn said at the convention. "Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy."
Ghazala Khan, whom Trump implied had been forbidden from speaking at the DNC, stood up to the then-Republican nominee in a Washington Post op-ed, writing, "Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn't know what the word sacrifice means."
Since then, the Khans have spoken about concerns of hate crimes and harassment in the wake of Trump's election, and Khizr Khan is due to publish a memoir in the fall of 2017.
After Biles' dominating performance in Rio, gymnastics facilities reported a surge in membership, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the ebullient 19-year-old, who was adopted as a child, has also been called an inspiration to other foster children and countless others.
Journalist Allison Glock, in espnW after Biles was named its Woman of the Year, wrote: "Here was a woman who also happened, just by her very existence, to be forcing every coming generation to do better. Because she did better. (A lot better.) And with that mandate came the comfort of knowing better could still be done, that our future could be as bright and certain as we dared allow."