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The American Musical: “Hamilton”

"Hamilton," the hit broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a reminder of what America stands for, especially when our country needs to remember it the most.

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Before Alexander Hamilton even enters the stage, the audience hears his whole backstory unraveled: one unfortunate event after another, until you step back in awe and wonder. You ask yourself, how does this orphan and immigrant who has lost almost everything, jump hurdles immense hardship, and and eventually become one of our country’s founding fathers? How did he persevere, and ultimately play a major role in the creation of our nation? If there was ever a truer representation of the “American dream” it would be the narrative of Alexander Hamilton, as portrayed in “Hamilton.”

 

Hamilton was illegitimately born out of wedlock on Nevis, a tropical Caribbean island to his mother and his father. His father leaves, and Hamilton’s mother dies of sickness, leaving him and his brother orphans. They are left in the care of a cousin, but soon he commits suicide, leaving them abandoned again. 

Through hardship, Hamilton understood the only way to get over obstacles is using them to your advantage, and to never forget to pursue your talents. Hamilton found a talent in writing. He wrote a letter to his father describing the hurricane that had ravaged through the Caribbean, and its devastation on neighboring islands, where it had made landfall. It got published in the newspaper, making him famous, and impressing people at how well a self educated teenage boy could write. Receiving a scholarship, he was urged to go study in America, where his future could be brighter. He sailed to New York, as an immigrant, meaning he would face new challenges, but also welcome a much needed new beginning.

 

“Hamilton: I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal

Tryin’ to reach my goal my power of speech, unimpeachable

Only nineteen but my mind is older

These New York City streets get colder, I shoulder

Every burden, every disadvantage

I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish

I walk these streets famished

The plan is to fan this spark into a flame”

 

Our society in America today has forgotten how much immigrants like Alexander Hamilton have contributed to our country. In return, Hamilton and Lafayette remind us: “Immigrants: We get the job done.” Many of our country’s prominent founding fathers had never had to deal with the level of adversity Hamilton faced. We don’t fully acknowledge their achievements and the hurdles they took to get there. Hamilton was an unsung hero, or at least before “Hamilton” debuted:

 

   “Jefferson: I’ll give him this: his financial system is a

    Work of genius. I couldn’t undo it if I tried

    And I tried”

    Madison: He took our country from bankruptcy to prosperity

    I hate to admit it, but he doesn’t get enough credit

    For all the credit he gave us.”

 

This year, America chose to look at immigrants and refugees as a hinderance to our society. We have decided to build walls on our borders. How can we call ourselves the land of opportunity if we deny immigrants a chance to grasp that opportunity? Imagine how many future Alexander Hamiltons we will deny the chance to take their shot in America. Immigrants have been contributing to the creation of America’s history since America became a nation, and now we are taking away their chance? Our responsibility is to not take away immigrants’ shots, but to ensure each individual gets a fair chance. All of us must accept the fact that in order to become a successful society, we must look at diversity as a benefit. This collision of cultures and identity that is undeniably America, should be used to our advantage. Even with our differences, we should listen intently to each other, especially after such a divisive election. The only way to keep moving forward and make progress is to solve problems is by discussion, understanding, and compromise. No one knows this better than Alexander Hamilton and the Founding fathers, who through these endeavors created a new nation from nothing. But to continue to discriminate people based on their differences is unacceptable.

Growing up, Alexander Hamilton witnessed the sheer brutality of the slave trade, which later fueled his firm belief in the abolishing of slavery. It is disheartening to think that even though slavery is now abolished, our society still discriminates. We are still fighting to end racism, and to stop the gap of inequality on all fronts from widening. 

However, “Hamilton” is a reminder and proof of our society’s growth. Take a look at the cast of “Hamilton”, a hit broadway musical, filled with a diverse cast of many identities. Fifty years ago, who would have ever imagined George Washington, Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, being played by black men. “Hamilton” has made this reality. Daveed Diggs, who portrayed Lafayette and Jefferson in “Hamilton,” explains what an impact “Hamilton” can make: “…seeing a black man play Jefferson or Madison or Washington when I was a kid in Oakland might have changed my life.”

“Hamilton” has shown us what to strive for. It reminds our generation of Alexander Hamilton: the example of how an immigrant can launch themselves to the top if they pursue their talents. It encourages us to seek out opportunities and grasp them, like Hamilton’s motto: “I’m not throwing away my shot!” “Hamilton” allows the audience realize that history is being made now: the decisions made today, will influence what will be written in the next chapters of America’s history.  Behind the names, dates, and historical events in history books were real, living, breathing, people that made choices, good or bad, that lead them to be forever memorialized in our history books. For some, becoming a part of making history may seem impossible. Some live in poverty, some face discrimination, financial struggles, and many make difficult sacrifices. But “Hamilton” teaches our generation to keep pushing and to, “Rise up.”

Finally, “Hamilton” provides us with a call to action by reminding us of America’s beginnings. How America, an inexperienced, young, nation in the making was strong enough to persevere through adversity, and difficulty, to gain independence, and defy Britain:

 

“Burr: How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower

Somehow defeat a global superpower?

How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire?

Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?”

 

This testament should be viewed as our inspiration and motivation, to preserve the America that the patriots fought for, to preserve the America built from the dreams of immigrants, to preserve the nation that was created for us. It is echoed in Hamilton’s final soliloquy, before he is fatally shot:

 

“Hamilton: Legacy, what is a legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me

America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me

You let me make a difference, a place where even orphan immigrants

Can leave their fingerprints and rise up.”

 

So let us protect this land of opportunity. Let us rise up, and let us sing our own melodies.

 

(All lyrics quoted from “Hamilton” were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.)

 

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The American Musical: “Hamilton”