Watch as Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and star of Broadway hit Hamilton, freestyles in the Rose Garden:
“It’s the Oval Office
Oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m there
It’s so much more intimidating
Than if it were square.”
That’s good stuff. And it was all unrehearsed, straight off the cuff.
The fellow holding the cue cards is Barack Obama, currently president of the United States. (Love how after the prez says “Do you think that’s going viral?” the off-camera functionary says “Yes sir.” If you’re the president, someone says “Yes sir” no matter what the situation.)
This was part of a day of Hamilton at the White House, with the cast (and First Lady Michelle Obama) working and sharing with a group of high school kids. The hip-hop musical, based on the life of orphan-turned-Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton (“the ten-dollar Founding Father without a father”), is the toast of Broadway this year.
Jump ahead to 43:05 to hear President Obama introduce the cast of Hamilton, followed by two terrific songs from the show. Would you give your left arm to be there? I would.
The thrilling thing is that Lin-Manuel Miranda first performed the opening tune of Hamilton seven years ago at the White House Poetry Jam, during Obama’s first year in office. At the time Manuel was calling it the Hamilton Mixtape, and he opened with what was then a laugh line: “It’s a concept album about somebody I think embodies the life of hip-hop, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.” Obama referenced that yesterday in his introduction: “Who’s laughing now?”
Since then, Hamilton has gone from mixtape to poetry jam to off-Broadway hit to Broadway supershow, with tickets selling for thousands of dollars.
Obama also joked about that in his talk yesterday, saying “Now, the truth is, they do owe me. Because seven years ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda came to the White House poetry jam… Not to take undue credit, but this is definitely the room where it happened, right here.”
Perhaps I’m just lifted up by the spirit of the thing, but that seems like a metaphor for not just the wonders of the American Experiment but for all the good government can do. Nobody thinks the government made this play, but an event at the White House in 2009, set aside to celebrate the arts, gave Miranda a moment to feature his idea in front of a very prominent crowd. You think that didn’t help get the ball rolling? Talk about setting the stage.
It’s the same way government can do wonderful things in setting the stage for in alternative energy, medicine and healthcare, and so many other things. Don’t tell me government is the problem. Government can be great. Hamilton got that.
Good for him, and all hail to Lin-Manuel Miranda for what Michelle Obama called the “best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.”