Hamilton- on values, legacy & the power of art

“It is rare where a piece of art can remind us about what’s best in ourselves, and that’s what these guys have done, and that is a great gift.” — Obama on Hamilton

Very much long due but so glad I got to catch Hamilton while I was in London. The show was every bit of what critics/ friends said it would be and even more so than one imagines it to be. It is an inspiration, celebration and remembrance of not just one of America’s often forgotten founding fathers but of timeless values and reflections worth pursuing daily.

Take no hesitations in fighting for what one believes

“There’s a million things I haven’t done. Just you wait, just you wait.” — Hamilton

A constant tension in the musical was the rivalry between Hamilton and Burr- and boy did these two have totally different styles. Burr is one whom doesn’t really believe in anything, has no clear principles and is always waiting for the “right moment” (to keep himself safe). Whereas with Hamilton, there’s always the impatience to get things done and go after things he deeply believes in. This is also a man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and to push for what he thinks is right. People would always tell one to be cautious, to be patient and they are right in that good things does take time to show its results (and most good things requires patience). But sometimes in getting to that long game requires jumping on to start things up in the first place, especially in the things that we believe in.

What is legacy, does legacy matter?

“When you’re gone who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?” — Burr, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”

The show’s context was predicated on how little most folks actually knew about Hamilton’s story before this musical became popular (most just knew Hamilton as the guy on the $10USD bill and some even thought he was a former US president). And through the musical, perhaps it has helped to both change that legacy but also remind us how history is often written by winners. But the show also reminds us that sometimes legacy is “about planting seeds in a garden we never get to see” and that what matters more is doing our part in this relay race and trust that things add up in the longer flow of history.

A related question that the show asks is does ambition/ legacy really matter? Because at the end of the day everyone is forgotten- like what Eliza says “I relish being your wife. Look around, look around… that would be enough”.

This is a telling of the best parts of America’s narrative and values

“I’m just like my country — I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I am not throwing away my shot.” — Hamilton, “My Shot”

The caption of Hamilton’s title is “an American musical” and very much rightly so. From the tale of the immigrant story (that Hamilton is the original immigrant who made and created his life in America) to fighting the revolution for what they believed in, to the building of a new nation- all these captured some of the best parts of America’s narrative and values. And of course Washington’s decision to move on to let the nation learn to say goodbye and trust in the system that gave America its democracy- timeless stuff.

What will we do?

“And when my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell my story?” — Eliza Hamilton, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Much of life is always in flux and there will always be so much uncertainty that’s hard for us to control. And in that flux, perhaps what matters more is walking each step firmly doing what we believe in and doing it to the best of our ability. For everything else, its having faith that it will all work out in the end.

Written by

Co-Director The Mills Fabrica (南豐作坊聯席總監)| Hong Kong Schwarzman Scholar

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