The president and first lady welcomed the cast of Broadway’s "Hamilton” to the White House to host a day full of student workshops, Q&A and performances, continuing their ongoing effort to highlight all different kinds of American art.
“Hamilton” captures the story of our nation’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, using hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and more musical styles to bring history to life. The creative minds behind the hit show have also worked with non-profit organizations and foundations to make the musical accessible to as many students as possible, along with developing educational materials to expand on the context of the show. Also at this event, members of the cast workshopped this curriculum with local students in the East Wing.
In his remarks on that special occasion, here’s what the president had to say:
“There is a reason why this has become a cultural phenomenon. IIn Ron Chernow's extraordinary biography of Alexander Hamilton, and a great historian is here in the front row. Lin-Manuel picked up this biography at the airport for some light beach reading. But he iden-tified a quintessentially American story. In the character of Hamilton -- a striving immigrant who escaped poverty, made his way to the New World, climbed to the top by sheer force of will and pluck and determination -- Lin-Manuel saw something of his own family and every immigrant family.
“And in the Hamilton that Lin-Manuel and his incredible cast and crew bring to life – a man who is ‘just like his country, young, scrappy, and hungry’ – we recognize the improbable story of America, and the spirit that has sustained our nation for over 240 years.
“And in this telling, rap is the language of revolution. Hip-hop is the backbeat. In each brilliantly crafted song, we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation. We feel the fierce, youthful energy that animated the men and women of Hamilton’s generation. And with a cast as diverse as America itself, including the outstandingly talented women -- the show reminds us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men -- and that it is an inheritance that belongs to all of us.
“And that’s why Michelle and I wanted to bring this performance to the White House. Because “Hamilton” is not just for people who can score a ticket to a pricey Broadway show. It is a story for all of us and about all of us.
“And so we are absolutely thrilled that the show’s producers have been working with the New York Public Schools, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gilder Lehrman Institute to make sure that thousands of low-income students have the chance to see the show. There’s now a curriculum to give students context and a deeper meaning -- or deeper understanding of our nation’s founding.
“We hope that this helps every teacher who’s spent hours trying to make the Federalist Papers teen-ager-friendly. We hope that the remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton will show our young people the possibilities within themselves, and how much they can achieve in the span of a lifetime.
“And we hope that they’ll walk away with an understanding of what our founders got started -- that it was just a start. It was just the beginning. That’s what makes America so great. You finish the story. We’re not yet finished. This is a constant work in progress, America. We’re boisterous and we’re diverse. We’re full of energy and perpetually young in spirit. We are the project that never ends. We make mistakes. We have our foibles. But ultimately, when every voice is heard, we overcome them.”
First lady Michelle Obama also added her praise of “Hamilton” the musical and its talented cast:
“The show is creative. It is hilarious. It is memorable. And I loved it so much that I saw it again when you guys went to Broadway. I don’t think I came backstage, I snuck out. And then I made my husband and my children go see it -- you guys got to see them. And of course, my children, because I loved it so much, they were like, ‘It couldn’t be that good.’ You know how you all are with -- if your mom likes it, it can’t be cool. I raved about it so much, so they went in very skeptical. But they came out true believers like everyone does when they see the show.
“As we all know, ‘Hamilton’ has become not just a Broadway hit but a global sensation. Shows are sold out until January, February or whatever. It is the hardest ticket to get on the planet. It brought the house down at the Grammys; we all saw that. That was really cool. And it’s one of the best-selling cast albums in half a century, is what my notes are telling me here.
“And that is not surprising because ‘Hamilton’ is an amazing story that is beautifully told. Through ‘Hamilton’, Lin-Manuel reveals all the drama and the glory, the heartbreak that run through our nation’s history. And he shows us that the icons in our history books were real people with real brilliance but also with real flaws.”