Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of a small musical phenomenon that hit Broadway in August 2015 called ‘Hamilton’. And if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a massive musical theatre fan, and therefore will happily talk about musicals at any given time. So, given the school’s recent focus on ‘Rising Up’ (think back to that beautiful reciting of ‘Still I Rise’ at speech day), how could I not talk about one of the most iconic lines from the show, ‘Rise Up’, when given the chance?
Just for a bit of background (for anyone who truly has been in some sort of cultural hibernation), ‘Hamilton’ follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the USA’s founding fathers, from when he arrived in North America as an immigrant right up to his death. It explores both his love life and his role in the American Revolution. One of the main themes of the musical is the way that Alexander is able to ‘rise up’ from being an immigrant to being a major part of the start of a new nation.
So, can he be considered relatable? And what can we learn from him? After all, the musical isn’t set in modern times, and we’re hardly on the brink of war or a revolution (depending on how extreme your Brexit opinions are). However, I think there’s something truly inspiring in the way Alexander Hamilton’s story is shown, although the impact of the historical figure himself is a story for another day!
Let me set the scene. The musical starts with a hopeful Alexander setting sail to the North American colonies in search of a better life. All he wants is to prove himself and show the world ‘what he’s got’. I think this is both a situation we can relate to and a mindset we should channel. Maybe you’ve just started year 7, and you’ve got your whole secondary school experience ahead of you. Or perhaps you’re embarking on the emotional ride that is GCSEs. Or perhaps, you’re staring at your UCAS form, starting to tentatively map your future out. Given how many exciting journeys we begin in school, this hopeful mindset is worth bringing into our lives. Try starting everything with the belief that you have what it takes to succeed, and that others need to see what you can do. Trust me, you’ll be surprised by quite how much more you’ll accomplish. Go for those leadership roles, audition for Canto or Acapella, try out for a Netball team. After all, how can you make a difference without trying? ‘Rise up’ from your insecurities, push them to the side, because chances are that if it’s something you want to do, you’ve got some sort of aptitude for it, at least that’s what I’ve found.
The musical goes on to show Alexander meeting his best friends to be: Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, and John Laurens (and Aaron Burr but we don’t really talk about that…). We get a rousing song about standing up to the tyranny of the British, particularly King George III. They encourage each other to tell all their friends, brothers, sisters, everyone really, to ‘rise up’ and take action. I think this attitude of banding together and fighting for something we believe in could be very helpful in the near future. Let me make this clear- I’m not advocating us all making some stand against the Queen in the name of freedom. But, as I’m sure you’re all aware, we are in the midst of an environmental crisis. Protests have been regularly taking place, and activists are getting louder and louder. However, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. Yes, protests are very important and a key way that the young people of this country are getting heard, but if actions speak louder than words, actions that make a difference do so even more. The government already know we’re angry, but we need to show them that we’re willing to put in the work. As a group, we need to ‘rise up’ above the noise, and make everyone know we’re ready to put in the effort. Nothing forces people into action more than embarrassment and guilt, so let’s utilise this, and force the government to take a more aggressive stance.
The rest of the musical continues this motif, but it is most clearly seen at the start. Moreover, after the war and setting up the bank, Hamilton goes on to make a series of bad decisions, and I don’t want to defend those. What can be seen though, as the story progresses, is that Hamilton’s ‘Rise up’ attitude does get him what he wants. He’s able to fight in the war that he was initially told to sit out of, and he was able to put in place his bank scheme (which the American banking system still uses) despite the adversity he faced. Clearly, having faith in your strengths and then using those strengths to fight for what you think is right is the way to go. I’m not saying you need to start a revolution or upheave our banking system, but put this thought process into your life, and you’ll feel much more confident in your abilities, and therefore more in control of the world we live in.