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IF YOU HAVEN'T LISTENED TO THE HAMILTON MIX-TAPE ---YOU NEED TO.

You know how I feel about Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he has managed to achieve with "Hamilton."  His mixtape which was released at Thanksgiving is unbelievable.  It is so good.  My favorite songs are:  Immigrants, I Wrote My Way Out, and Rise Up.  DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ABOUT JOHN LEGEND'S VERSION OF "HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU"!!!  They are all so good, and you should take a look at the lyrics (because what else do you have to do right, now?).  

When I heard Lin-Manuel's contribution on "I Wrote My Way Out", I was floored.  He tells the very real, very raw story of being a kid who didn't quite fit in at school.  He talks about taking a beating when he wanted to read.  "Oh, you think you're smart?!"  But the part that always really gets me are these lines:

"I know Abuela's never really gonna win the lottery so its up to me to draw blood with this pen, hit an artery.  This Puerto Rican's brains are leakin' through the speakers and if he can the shinnin' beacon this side of the GWB and shine a light when its gray out."

The drive that is so beautifully portrayed in this song -- I can easily imagine young Lin-Manuel desperate to make good on his family's dreams.  He has to do it - for his Abuela and for himself.  I am NOT an immigrant.  I am NOT the child of immigrants.  Yet, that drive is something that I think all humans can connect to -- the drive to do something that matters; to do build something that lasts.    

I posted the opening quote (Hustle til the haters ask if you're hiring) on my FB wall earlier today, and tons of people said that they thought I was hilarious, but man, I can relate to that quote.  That drive to keep going forward even when failure is nipping at your heels, or when everyone around you thinks you are crazy.  You know what I mean, right?  

I am so determined to encourage my students in their gifts and abilities.  They've got them in spades - sometimes they don't even SEE the ways that they are amazing.  I've got three fifth graders who straight up - no joke - artists on the computer.  They don't have super sophisticated art programs, they don't have computers at home -- THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE A STYLUS -- yet they can create BEAUTIFUL scenes on their computer.  I can't imagine what they could do if they were empowered with tools and experts.  SERIOUSLY!!!  I've got other students who have such BEAUTIFUL spirits -- they encourage everyone around them.  They do it so easily and naturally - that they don't even realize what a tremendous and unique human they are.  I've got writers, poets, mathematicians, computer engineers, scientists and musicians. I am never going to quit telling the world about how awesome they are and how much EVERY kid in our town deserves to have a high-quality education that pushes them to reach for things far beyond their grasp.  They gotta hustle.  So I gotta hustle.  No joke.

I suppose that is what I've appreciated so much about President Obama (I KNEW SHE WAS GONNA WRITE ABOUT IT!!!)  Both he and Mrs. Obama have encourage the young people of America to get going and do something.  In his farewell address, we were encouraged to get out there - get going and DO something!  Volunteer at a school, visit an old folks home, donate clothes, knit a hat or gloves, work in a soup kitchen, vounteer at an animal shelter, play with a kid, join the Big Brothers, sponsor a kid, buy a college kid some groceries -- do something. This is not a new concept and certainly not one that originated with President Obama.  "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," is a pretty old concept.  Would you let yourself receive a less than adequate education?  Would you let yourself be ignored and undervalued?  Would you let yourself be left behind and forgotten?  Nope. Nope. Nope.  Then look around and start loving your neighbor.

"Survive minor setbacks and take steps back from pied pipers. Be leaders, believers in yourself and mean it.  I mean you only get one shot, take it or leave it.  If you're living on your knees, you rise up.  Tell your brother that he's gotta rise up.  Tell your sister that she's gotta rise up.  When are folks like me and you gonna rise up?  Every city, every hood, we need to rise up.  All my soldiers, what's good?  We need to wise up. We ain't got no other choice we need to wise up; rise up!" (My Shot (Rise Up) - Hamilton Mixtape)

There were so many parts of President Obama's speech that I really appreciated (how I am going to miss his eloquence and poise!) but I think these lines capture best what I think I need to keep close to my heart:

"So regardless of the station we occupy, we all have to try harder; we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value family and hard work just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own."  President Barack Obama.

In short, the only way any Nation becomes great is through the everyday ordinary and extraordinary acts of kindness, generosity and support of its citizens.  We only become great together.  

So keep hustlin.  Don't quit.  I'm cheering you on, and pushing you to keep on going.  Keep moving forward.

--Jen