The Broadway musical Hamilton is a grand, gripping, beautiful piece that brings a virtually unknown Founding Father to light. Lin Manuel Miranda’s creation tells one of the many incredible stories that have been forgotten by time.
Stories of men and women who have laid down their lives for the sake of others, who have sacrificed much and gained personally little, that those of us generations later may reap bountifully a harvest of freedom and opportunity. It tells of brave souls who have overcome setback after setback and kept pushing forward in the face of adversity. The accolades, awards and nominations it garners are not undeserved.
Often as students we hear only the highlight reel of those such as Alexander Hamilton. First Secretary of the Treasury, founder of the New York Post, established the National Bank, writer of the Federalist Papers, leader of the Federalist Party, and Father of the United States Coast Guard. These historical figures are frequently dehumanized and placed on a pedestal as mysterious people who lived ages ago, reduced to names and dates. Through the musical Hamilton, we are given the unabashed and often overlooked humanity of our Founding Fathers.
In the song “History Has Its Eyes On You,” Washington tells Hamilton of his own youthful failures, losses and the devastating battle at Fort Necessity. A short piece that is generally lost among the more impressive musical numbers in Hamilton, “History Has Its Eyes On You” speaks soft words of wisdom to the young. We will surely make mistakes as we begin our journey through life, and we will fail time and time again. We will disappoint people who have trusted us, and we will doubt ourselves.
Washington reminds us to boldly seek our future regardless of past and present failures. We must overcome our doubts and press forward with all the brazen courage we can muster. Although we cannot ensure what will be said of us when we have been laid in our eternal resting place, we must still strive to make a difference.
When we are young it’s easy to get caught up in the throes of the everyday challenges and expectations that are placed upon us. Few of us think about the future. It’s not difficult to lose focus, become dazed, and assimilate. There’s so much future ahead of us and it all seems so uncertain. The temptation to keep our head down and follow the crowd is effortless.
But ever since I was a child I knew that there was something more to life than just the everyday norms. I desire something greater: to leave a lasting mark that will stand long after I’ve left this world. The music of Hamilton, as an anthem of youth, spoke deeply to my aspirations and goals. With every song we hear a message of hope and possibility. Hamilton’s exceptional tale of overcoming reminds us that anything is achievable. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, the Marquis de Lafayette, Angelica Schuyler: all of these characters within the play were once as young as I am now. They too wondered about their future. I live today in the costly legacy they left and it gives me the hope and drive that one day others will live in the legacy I leave behind.
True to the refrain in Hamilton, history has its eyes on all of us and I fully believe its eyes are on me in particular. Thank you Alexander Hamilton and Lin Manuel Miranda for helping me to look at my life through a lens of time and propelling me forward to pursuing my career in musical theatre, film, and the communicative arts.