Civic Imagination

Hamilton: An American Musical

"Hamilton" is a Broadway musical about the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton is one of America’s founding fathers: he was the first Secretary of the Treasury, he founded the country’s financial system, he was a primary contributor to the U.S. Constitution, and he was an illegitimate immigrant from the Caribbean. Lin Manuel Miranda, the writer and creator of "Hamilton," successfully makes this 250-year-old story contemporary and accessible by setting it to modern hip-hop music and choreography. The musical begins when Alexander Hamilton migrates from the Caribbean to New York City in search of a better life. Hamilton has to overcome systematic discrimination and obstacles because he is an illegitimate child, an orphan, and an immigrant. However, his unrelenting perseverance and fierce intelligence allows him to quickly rise to the top. He graduates from college two years early, marries a rich socialite, becomes George Washington’s trusted advisor, leads forces to victory during the American Revolution, and becomes the Secretary of State all within a few years. Unfortunately, Hamilton’s bold ideas and unorthodox political beliefs create tensions between him and the other founding fathers. He receives strong resistance from Democratic Republicans including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Aaron Burr, who incessantly contradict and plot against him in order to unravel his accomplishments. Hamilton’s flash of success is extinguished when he is exposed for having an affair with a married woman and when his oldest son is killed in a duel. His tragic downfall is concluded when he gets into a fight with the increasingly envious Aaron Burr, who challenges Hamilton to a duel and ends up killing him. The show concludes with Hamilton’s wife and his contemporaries mourning his death, celebrating his accomplishments, and providing commentary about the subjectivity of history and storytelling.

I first encountered “Hamilton” about six months ago when it was starting to get increasingly famous in the USA. The musical was always fairly well known, but it only started to become a nationwide sensation within the past year or so. One of my friends at college who knows I love musical theater introduced me to the show in February, and I have been listening to the soundtrack ever since. “Hamilton” fascinates me because it bridges a 250-year gap between the American Revolution and modern U.S. youth culture. Of course every child in the U.S. knows the story of the American Revolution and the founding fathers—how the British monarchy was oppressing the colonies, how several smart men wrote a document declaring America’s independence, and how American rebels fought off the British army and officially secured freedom for America. However, “Hamilton” was the first time I truly felt connected to and inspired by the story of the American Revolution and the people who were involved in it. By utilizing a music style that I can connect with, “Hamilton” resonates with me in a way that a simple U.S. history textbook never could.

“Hamilton” is a story that has the potential to inspire people of all ages, races, nationalities, and socio-economic statuses. It is a poignant success story of an immigrant who started with nothing and built his own legacy stone by stone. His story is one of hope for immigrants coming to a new country in search of a better life. In addition, Alexander Hamilton exemplifies the power of the pen, and how knowledge and education is the key to success. This theme of the musical shows that we must place education as a paramount priority for refugees, IDPs, and other at-risk citizens. Hamilton Official Broadway Website A short documentary about "Hamilton" Cast of "Hamilton" performing at the 2016 Tony Awards

Hamilton, Musical, Broadway, American, Revolution, American Dream, Immigrant


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