As some of you know, I recently got to (finally!) see the Broadway production of Hamilton. As anyone who has seen it can attest – it’s incredible.
Hamilton tells the story of one of America’s founding fathers – Alexander Hamilton – and is inspired by the biography of his life by historian Ron Chernow. Hamilton was a promoter of the US Constitution, created the country’s financial system as the first Secretary of Treasury, and wrote a number of George Washington’s economic policies. In particular, he wrote much of the Federalist Papers, which helped to ratify the constitution in America’s founding years.
But, I’ll leave the telling of Hamilton’s story to the history books. Today, I want to tell the story of Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda is a composer, a playwright, and the amazing creator of the Hamilton production. He studied at Wesleyan University, where he wrote his first big production, In the Heights. It would go on to win four Tony Awards, and really put Miranda on the map as someone who could write compelling stories and compose lyrics and beats that appealed to a wide variety of audiences. While on vacation in 2008, Miranda read Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton (an 800-page odyssey that my father-in-law insists I should read). He spent the next year composing a song called My Shot, which he performed at the White House. He slowly started performing more and more pieces telling Hamilton’s life and created the show Hamilton.
Hamilton, of course, went on to be a huge sensation. What strikes me about Miranda’s story is not that he was able to take American history, set it to hip-hop music, and make history fun. It’s not that for decades going forward, our school children will learn American history from a Broadway show in addition to a text book. It’s not even that the cast is almost completely people of color, telling a story of the white men who created this country. It’s the fundamental fact that inspiration comes from all places. From life, from music, from stories, from people. It comes in all genres, mixes, forms, combinations. Miranda was reading an 800-page memoir on someone who lived over two centuries ago – and he was able to take that, and create an edgy, innovative, ground-breaking Broadway show. Truly, he redefined a genre and pushed each of us to redefine our own limits.
In the work that we do at Impact Network, we are fortunate that there are 6,000 students that continue to inspire us every single day. That push us to do the best that we possibly can so that they can have a good education. Sometimes, it’s important that we step back, reflect, and remember that.