Yes, I know, you’re probably tired of hearing about Hamilton at this point. You’ve seen one too many posts about this hip new Broadway show, and you’ve heard one too many references to it. Perhaps you refuse to give in to the hype; out of sheer stubbornness you refrain from listening to the soundtrack at all. But I am here to convince you that maybe you should give it a chance. After all, Hamilton is not just a fluffy trend. It is truly good.
Trendy media is entertaining. What sets quality media- whether it’s a book, song, movie, or stage musical- apart is its depth, and Hamilton has depth. It is full of valuable messages, it promotes virtues such as independence, forgiveness, courage, equality, and hard work, and it does not blur the lines between right and wrong as do so many stories today.
As the show follows Alexander Hamilton’s life, we see two themes popping up again and again.
1. Seize the opportunity.
We hear messages like this often, with phrases such as “carpe diem” and the infamous “yolo” screaming in our faces at every turn. These phrases tell us to seize our opportunities, but they imply that to do so, we must be brazenly stupid and push aside any thoughts of the future.
From Hamilton we hear another message entirely.
We see characters who realize that, in order to seize opportunities, they must be careful and think about the future. When Hamilton sails to New York to build a life for himself there, he says, “For the first time, I’m thinking past tomorrow.” Over and over again, we see a man who refuses to give up, who always seizes his opportunities. He knows that he only has one shot to make a difference, and he plans on doing just that. “Everyday you fight like you’re running out of time,” Hamilton is told. We see that pay off, however, as he continuously climbs to the top.
Don’t throw away your shot, he says to his audience again and again, You may not get another.
2. Take a stand.
In a culture tyrannized by concepts such as “political correctness” and “don’t Judge me,” this is often hard to do. It’s usually easier to keep your thoughts on controversial topics to yourself. But there isn’t much purpose to life unless you have beliefs strong enough to stand up for. Hamilton realizes this all too well.
He confronts Aaron Burr, saying, “We won the war, what was it all for? Burr, we studied, and we fought, and we killed for the notion of a nation we now get to build. For once in your life, take a stand with pride. I don’t understand how you stand to the side.”
In the election of 1800, Hamilton gives his support to Thomas Jefferson, a man with whom he disagrees on nearly every topic imaginable. “But when all is said and all is done, Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.” He respects -though disagrees with- Jefferson, but Burr stands for nothing. He even switches political parties just to get a seat in the senate. He often advises, “Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Hamilton detests this mindset. He values strong, honest convictions and never wants to hide them. “Let’s take a stand with the stamina God has granted us,” he urges.
We need to stop being passive. We need to be bold, honest, active people, taking advantage of our opportunities and standing up for what we believe. We need to take shots. We need to pick our battles and take a stand.
“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”