The rise and inspiration of Hamilton

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton

Courtesy of wikimedia.org via Creative Commons

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton

Martika Theis, Reporter

It’s the middle of my sophomore year and I sit, exhausted, in AP U.S. History. My whole class is tired. We are the lucky members of a select group, the AP track. Collectively we have sold our souls to the world of college classes and our first bout with this level of difficulty could not be harder fought. Our passionate teacher takes pity on the poor students in her class and offers a single question to help wake them up before the lesson. It’s a geeky question, the kind that runs around only in the mind of the history teacher and her colleagues, but it is enough to start the gears turning in the fried brains of the students?

“Who is your favorite historical figure?”

“Alexander Hamilton,” I say, sitting up straighter like the good little student I am. My friends all give me weird looks and I quickly clarify, “He said what needed to be said when no one would listen.”

They all scoff and turn away. A couple more responses are given and the class continues as usual. Little did I know that a year later a single statement would connect me to one of the most creative and fantastic examples of media on Broadway.

There have long been musicals about history or set in a particular historical period but always with music “appropriate” to the period and young actors made to look old prancing around pretending to reincarnate old, dead, white men. Then Lin Manuel Miranda happened.

Come one, come all, to the Broadway’s best and newest, the hip-hop musical Hamilton! Learn all about the life of first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton through song and dance, ranging from soft ballads to full on rap throwdowns!

At a glance it may seem strange to have the Founding Fathers rapping and pop-locking but what better music to represent to ruckus of that time period? Revolution was on the air, there were gunfights and treason, the War of Independence was not a quiet time. And despite the completely new music medium, Miranda’s pure genius shines through in the historically accurate yet emotional lyrics.

Listening to the soundtrack or viewing the show is an unreal experience due to how much it draws the audience in, inviting them to meet the men behind the legends with all their shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. Another revolutionary, pun intended, act on the part of Miranda is the casting. Every single one of the actors is from a racially diverse background, to the point where the only stereotypically white person plays England’s King George the Third.

He was just one of the many Founding Fathers and died the earliest of them all, much before he could have ran for President and at least won a slightly larger spot on our first-grade history tablemats.”

— Martika Theis

The reasoning behind this was put best by Mr. Miranda himself, “This is the story of American then told by America now.” It is a timely and appropriate choice that represents how slowly the American people are beginning to accept a new national identity.

So why Alexander Hamilton of all people? He was just one of the many Founding Fathers and died the earliest of them all, much before he could have ran for President and at least won a slightly larger spot on our first-grade history tablemats.

Yet, his story is so very timely for social justice. Hamilton’s status as an immigrant presents a powerful argument for the benefits of immigration and his portrayal as bisexual, as according to pieces of historical evidence and rumor, really brings the whole story to a more accepting modern society. That isn’t to say it is historically inaccurate, we merely are not in that time period anymore so Miranda has had the bravery to show true history. The sensitive topics are handled respectfully and do not interrupt the story at all, only adding to the clarity of the show.

Also, while not winning a presidential term and taking the highest post of Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington, Alexander Hamilton established our financial system and sorted out the enormous war debts we incurred from supplies and allied assistance. For our budding country, this was a priceless (pun intended) move. We could not have rose to the economic superpower we are today, nor would we have all the pieces of the Constitution, without the Congress battles Hamilton fought for us.

The story of one man’s ambition leading to both his rise and fall in revolutionary America is beyond inspiring and there is no way to see it better than to attend Hamilton in New York, or Chicago.