ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, every one on my twitter feed was talking about Hamilton. And I mean EVERYONE. My twitter and tumblr is full of people who live on the east coast, so they had gone to see HaY milton during the previews when it was off-Broadway. I didn't know much about it and clearly wasn't going all the way to NY for something I couldn't even listen to yet, but I started following Lin-Manuel Miranda on twitter.
I didn't really have much of clue who he was - I mean he was already a big deal, having one Tonys for his first muscial, "In the Heights", but I live on the west coast, so we don't get much culture here. But then, I kept reading his tweets, and they were all like this:
So, as soon as The Hamilton soundtrack was available I bought it. And then I listened to it. The rest they say is history. If you haven't heard it. You should. You should listen to My Shot, Hurricane, Wait for It, Yorktown, Helpless, and One Last Time. You should listen to all of it, but those were the first few I put on repeat.
During the movie tonight, my nine year old son, leaned over and said, "Hey, Mama! That's Lin!" He was grinning and both my daughter and I nodded our heads. They recognized his voice imediately, and were happy to hear it.
There's an adorable video of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the internets of the moment the Disney execs told him that not only were they using his songs in Moana, but his voice. He looks genuinely and blissfully happy. I walked away from the movie tonight, not only entertained but happy that such a kind human has had his childhood dreams fulfilled.
Lin-Manuel Miranda fans can be kind of rabid -- they adore him, and are very protective. The kids call him a "Cinamon Roll -- too good for this world". It's a thing they say. There is something so wonderful about watching someone rise up -- someone who was determined and had a strong inner voice direct them. It makes you feel good to see them succeed. The look of pleasure on my 9 year old's face is an example of that. He understands that Lin grew up in a world where there were no Latino voices in the theater -- a world where a young man of color would be unlikely to see himself on stage - where musicals did not contain the voices of those to whom English is a second language. Fast forward through all the struggle and all the discoruaging days and you have Lin-Manuel Miranda standing on stage and earning 11 Tonys, and moving to London to film the new Mary Poppins Movie, while promoting Disney's Moana. You can't have anything but love in your heart for a guy who wrote his way out, as a love letter to his wife.
He used to come outside between matinees and encourage all the theater kids who showed up just to see him or for a change to win tickets to Hamilton. He had to stop doing it though because it would back up traffic for miles, and became unsafe for the crowds, but he kept tweeting how much he wanted to be out there. He would look down from the second floor of the theater and see all the people in line for his show - and he said that only the kids ever looked up. When they saw him, he would wave to them.
This is my favorite kind of story. The hard working kid with a big heart and a big dream. These are the stories I love to tell my children and my students. I always emphasize the determination, hard-work and days of defeat. It is important that our children understand that success takes hard work, and time, and sometimes you have to start over and over and over again. They also need to see examples of people who are grateful and amazed when praise comes their way; people who never forget that they were once the kid waiting outside the theater after the show hoping to see their favorite singer leave.
Not unlike Moana, who follows a different path than everyone around her, stories like Lin-Manuel Miranda, or Simone Biles, or JK Rowling, or Bethany Hamilton remind us that we were each created uniquely. We cannot follow any other path than the one that was given to us - and sometimes the people around us might not understand where we are going, or what we are doing - it doesn't make our calling less important, or less holy. The older I get, the more it seems to me that as a parent and as an educator, my responsiblity lies less in modeling young people into what I think they should be, and more empowering them to live out their calling. Malala Yousafazi's father was asked how it was that he was able to raise such a powerful and amazing daughter. His response was, "Do not ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings."
Are you reading this little birdies? Go on out their and fly! I know you can do it!
Here's a bonus quote which explains why I would love a Yeah! Hamlet! Shirt: