Hamilton, Revisited

I admit it — I cannot stop talking about “Hamilton: An American Musical.” I saw it last year on Broadway and was blown away by the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. In 46 songs Miranda captures the psyche of another enigmatic and complex genius: Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was the “lost” founding father whom author Ron Chernow, in his extraordinary biography, rediscovered, and Miranda brought to life.

Hamilton was born a poor orphan but was intent on making the most of his life. He was very bright and a very hard worker. He was ambitious. He was a big dreamer. He was an immigrant whom George Washington effectively adopted, mentored, and propelled to the very top of this nascent republic. In return for that embrace, Hamilton gave us the interpretation of the Constitution that prevails to this day in The Federalist Papers; he conceptualized the central bank (now the Federal Reserve); he gave us the Coast Guard; he even designed military uniforms and formulated a professional army; and more. All of that coming from a poor orphan from the West Indies.

Hamilton was brash and thin-skinned. He had an overblown sense of self and destiny and a chip on his shoulder. He was an impulsive romantic, which cost him his life.

When I heard that Lin-Manuel Miranda was to resume the lead role and stage the show in Puerto Rico for the benefit of his and my devastated island, Pat and I decided that we would find a way to attend no matter what it would take. It was not easy to secure the tickets, but the willingness of a friend to stand in line for hours made it possible.

It is hard to imagine a more perfect setting. We were watching the story of a son of the Caribbean, who left Nevis after a terrible hurricane to make something of himself and change the world. We were watching a story of perseverance, resilience, and coming out from despair to help build a nation. The story was being told by a hometown boy who broke through the shackles of insularity to worldwide renown and came back to challenge the rest of us to be like Hamilton — to take charge of our destiny and rise to become better than we have ever been.

The performance was better than the Broadway version in every dimension. But needless to say, it was emotionally charged. When Miranda came out for the first time the ovation forced the interruption of the performance. There was not a single dry eye among the 1,000 people present.

There are many extraordinary and memorable songs in the musical. One of the opening pieces, “My Shot,” vocalizes about never wasting an opportunity, particularly when it may never come around again. I can relate personally, and for my hometown. As individuals, as a community, we are not “throwing away” our shot.

- Rafael L. Bras

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  • Rafael Bras

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Institute Communications | Office of the Provost