Hamilton and the Music of Legacy

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Hamilton is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, and it has taken the internet by storm. The musical opened in August, and it’s still impossible to get tickets. What’s so beautiful about Hamilton? Aside from some cursing, quite a bit.

If the phrase “Fight Me” were a person, Alexander Hamilton would be it. The forgotten founding father is a genius, but he can’t keep himself out of trouble. He’s brilliant and blunt, and the combination makes him enemies.

I can’t help liking him.

However, the musical doesn’t gloss over his flaws and failings. He makes huge mistakes and faces the consequences. Often Hollywood lets their protagonists run wild, but history and this musical don’t flinch from showing the price of bad decisions.

Some of the songs are spoken rhymes, but most tracks are beautiful like “Wait for It” and “Burn.” “Non-Stop” has been stuck in my head about a month. Every innocent line from Act 1 comes back to haunt the audience as Act 2 falls apart faster than cheap Kleenex. And you’re going to need a lot of Kleenex.

The most resonate part of the musical is it’s wrestling with ambition and legacy. Hamilton and Burr climb the political ladder and worry about what they’re leaving for their country and children. Eliza sums up: “When my time is up, have I done enough? Who tells my story?”

As a college student, I think about my future a lot. Future classes, future job, future family. I wonder what kind of legacy I’m building. What am I doing with my talents?

As a Christian especially, I don’t know how much time I have. I could live ninety-seven years, or Jesus could come back tomorrow. It’s reassuring to learn from Hamilton and Burr’s successes and failures. Worrying about the future isn’t anything new, and this musical inspires me to live as fully as I can with whatever time I’ve got.

-Josie Kawlewski


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