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  • Writer's pictureEphemeral & Faithful

Three Lessons from "Hamilton": What Is My Legacy?

About a month ago, I went through another surgery related to Cystic Fibrosis, which triggered an unexpected downward turn of respiratory status, and required a week of hospitalization. An aimless scroll through Facebook the afternoon after my surgery solved my stuck-in-bed boredom as I came across an article that reminded me of the release of "Hamilton," a Broadway musical that was filmed and released on Disney+. Having always wanted to see Hamilton performed live, but never gotten the chance, I jumped on the opportunity to watch the film in bed, and proceeded to watch it once a day during my hospital stay, mesmerized by the strangely fascinating combination of rich history with a hip hop soundtrack (that required captions the first time or two I watched it), all displayed by brilliant theatre performers and singers and a stellar production crew. I oftentimes just listening to the music and storyline behind the music during the numerous times I viewed the film. As I quickly picked up the running thread of the value of legacy that Alexander Hamilton held, I have been mulling over the importance of legacy over the past several weeks, but also thinking about the balance needing to be struck between setting a legacy and yet also not neglecting present life.

"Don't be shocked when your history book mentions me. I will lay down my life if it sets us free. Eventually, you'll see my ascendancy and I am not throwin' away my shot! I am not throwin' away my shot! ~ Alexander Hamilton in "My Shot"

Hamilton kicks off the show with meeting Aaron Burr as a new friend, and immediately bonding with him over the fact that he was seen as unvalued and worthless as an orphan, and yet Burr, also an orphan, seemed to have accomplished much already and garnered praise and admiration from many for his knowledge and likability. Burr attempted to quell Hamilton's ambitious fire and eagerness for a revolution to make himself know with the advice of "talk less, smile more," but was unsuccessful as Hamilton quickly formed a friendship with four other fellows who had equal hunger for a revolution, and continued on his quest for recognition and legacy. Later, as the war is raging on, George Washington enters onto the scene who is searching for a right hand man to help him as he commands the troops. As revealed in the opening scene of Hamilton, Alexander clearly has a knack with the pen and his intellect, which is exactly what George Washington needs. However, Hamilton has had big dreams dancing in his head of commandeering troops and dying on the battlefield in glory, not being a secretary. He scoffs at the idea, but Washington continues to express his dire need for Hamilton's secretarial abilities, to which Hamilton finally agrees, but is never truly satisfied with a pen as his weapon in the war rather than a bayonet. Washington saw Hamilton's eagerness to fight on the front lines for the sheer purpose of glorification, but saw deeper down his value utilizing intellect and writing to make a difference.


Do others see your talent and how you can use it to truly make the best difference overall or are you so focused on building a legacy that you fail to find value in the skillsets God has given you, even if they are not as glamorous or beg for others' applause in the spotlight?

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"We don't need a legacy. We don't need money. If you could let me inside your heart; Oh, let me be a part of the narrative in the story they will write someday! Let this moment be the first chapter where you decide to stay, and I could be enough and we could be enough. That would be enough." ~Eliza Hamilton in "That Would Be Enough"

Alexander eventually finds love, and weds the charming Eliza Hamilton. Through their marriage, Eliza is not slow to recognize his drive for legacy. Even in his task of secretary, he writes incessantly and vigorously, spending many a late night at his desk, instead of spending quality time with his little family. Many times, Eliza urges him to step away from his work such as when she appealed to General Washington during her pregnancy to send him home as she knew he would not come, begged him to step away for a special supper during their son Philip's ninth birthday, and she asked him to spend time with her the night before he was killed in the duel with Aaron Burr, even though he knew full well of the possibility of his death. An often repeated line in the musical by numerous characters is, "Why do you write like you're running out of time?" Hamilton had a blind spot of getting so wrapped up in his legacy-building work that he failed to see the loved ones he left out of his own narrative, and though he truly did love them, he only had fragments of precious time, often leftovers, that he spent with them.


Are you so focused on your legacy-building work, whether it is career and work itself, monetary investment and saving, higher education, or breaking generational chains and stepping out as the "first one" to break an unwanted legacy that you neglect the loved ones, both family and friends, who are in your life?

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"What is a legacy? It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see." ~ Alexander Hamilton in "The World Was Wide Enough"

Well I feel like I've bashed enough on the negatives of Alexander. Let's talk about my favorite quality of his (that is also his biggest downfall): his drive to build a reputable legacy. Admirably, he held himself to a high standard, was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, and was anxious to set a positive legacy for himself in light of his devastating childhood and struggles in order to prove his value and not let his struggles define him, but rather prove that he was an overcomer. I am fairly certain that every person to a degree struggles with their own value, and fears that their failures or uncontrollable circumstances will define who they are. Pulling from Hamilton's life story, I encourage you to "rise up, wise up, and eyes up" as you press forward in life. Write your story. Stand strong. Hold yourself to a high standard. Never lose sight of your dreams. Sure, details and goals in life may need to be reworked and replanned and it all may not quite play out as you imagined, but such is life. A legacy is abut writing the best story of your life that you can with what you're given.

So what will your legacy be? What stories will be remembered and told when you are gone?

"And when you're gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?" ~ Hamilton Cast in "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story"
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