The Hill Hamilton Climbed
By: A. Thiollier
“The Hill we Climb” is an incredible poem written by a young black woman at President Biden’s inauguration. It inspired millions with the message of a dream, a goal, of overcoming difficulties and achieving unity as a nation today, the United States of America. One of the verses speaks of the forefathers, and the “hill” they climbed to free the US from monarchy and build a new country. This can’t help but remind me of the formidable Broadway play, Hamilton, and the story that it tells. It is a great example of acting and “climbing” up the hill of freedom as a person and as a government; it is also, therefore, the subject of this article.
The play Hamilton, written and starred by Lin Manuel Miranda, is a theatrical representation of the life and accomplishments of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the US. His life and story are to be admired and maybe aspired to. As the line in the musical says, “the guy is nonstop”. Hamilton starts his life with absolutely nothing, with no one expecting anything from him – except himself. His childhood in the British West Indies was emotionally damaging, where all his guardians left him in one traumatizing way or another. He worked as a clerk after his father left, continuing this job after his mother died. As quickly as he could, he moved to the US and made his reputation in the American Revolution, where he became close to General George Washington. Still during the war, Hamilton, eager to elevate his position in life, marries Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of a high-status General. Later, near the end of the war, Hamilton leads an attack on Yorktown, Virginia, a British stronghold, which goes successfully, and helps the United States win its freedom. Hamilton then studies and practices law for a while, he helps to draft the American constitution, becomes the US’ first Secretary of Treasury, and founds and constructs the American financial system. He is finally killed by his rival Aaron Burr in 1804. Hamilton is now honoured on every $10 bill ever printed for the role he had as a forefather.
The play Hamilton not only tells the awe-inspiring true story of a man who built a reputation for himself from nothing but also sends us an important message about going after what we believe in. Each of the problematic yet inspired characters in the play have dreams of revolution, a new government, and their own opinions on how to do it. Although each character has ways that are questionable, including Hamilton, they all “climb their hills” and do whatever they can to get to the peak. His young and motivated friends Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan all “dream of life without a monarchy”, and as soon as the opportunity of fighting in the war presents itself, Lafayette works with France to get more “guns and ships, and so the balance shifts”, Laurens fights for the freedom of slaves (“We’ll never be free until we end slavery”), and Mulligan becomes “a tailor spyin’ on the British government. I take their measurements, information and then I smuggle it”. All these riveting characters reflect the people of today, fighting for the rights of every person, going after their dreams, and working for them.
Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s “frenemy” in the new US government, speaks a lot about how he is “willing to wait for it”, to wait for his opportunity to climb his mountain. He is a lot more hesitant than Hamilton and his friends, less ready to use his gut reaction for change. In a famous line, he says “Talk less. Smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what
you’re for.” He aspires for less, he doesn’t dream for himself, and when he does, it’s too late, and he ends up killing his friend Hamilton, in anger. Burr seems to send us a message to be patient, which can be good in some cases, however as his life ends up going in the wrong direction and the country was successfully built by those who were ready to act, we can see that those afraid of climbing the hill may find themselves left behind on the ground.
Amanda Gorman, the author of the poem “The Hill We Climb” not only mentioned the forefathers, but also the Broadway show Hamilton in the verse “History has its eyes on us”, a clear reference to the song in the play “history has its eyes on you”. Lin Manuel Miranda inspired her poem not only with his style of writing but also with the play’s go-getter message, which is openly applicable to the world of today, a world “where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president.” Her poem was full of hope and dreams of unity because we live in a world where “even as we grieved, we grew, that even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tried, we tried, that we'll forever be tied together, victorious.”
Young people all around the world are fighting for women’s and immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and so many more causes, going to the streets and protesting. “The hill we climb, if only we dare” she read. Each one of us, the characters of the story of the world today, is climbing our own hills and helping the world to hike the huge mountain towards peaceful humanity. Although we may never reach the top, every step we take is bettering the world. Amanda wrote, “Somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished.” A nation started by Hamilton but continued by us. So, let’s take inspiration from Hamilton and Amanda Gorman to “climb” towards our dreams, so that the top may one day be in view.
Play: Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda
“The Hill We Climb” by Amada Gorman
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