Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Who Needs Horatio Alger, We Have Hamilton!

Peggy Noonan recently reviewed  a hip hop play.  "Hip hop?" you day, "Has she flipped her wig?"

Actually she has tipped her wig figuratively to a Broadway biography of one of our bewigged founders: Washington's right hand man, a triumvir of the Federalist Papers, and our first Treasury Secretary: Alexander Hamilton.

The U.S. economy achieved its takeoff into sustained economic growth by 1840, long before all but two countries in the world.  Yet a betting man or woman in 1780 would have found little to choose among our new fledgling republic strung along the Atlantic compared to Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil in terms of who would have been economically successful. Richard Sylla, perhaps our preeminent financial historian of U.S. financial markets, makes a compelling case that Hamilton's financial reforms enabled the emergence of a sophisticated financial system.  That financial system financed the young republic's emergence as an economy.  Thus economic takeoff took place here and not somewhere else.

Alexander Hamilton is one of my favorite Founding Fathers.  More to the point he exemplifies what makes America America and nowhere is it better expressed than in this very 2015 Broadway musical, "Hamilton"  Listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda, its playwright and star, as he performs "The Hamilton Mixtape" at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. He is accompanied by Alex Lacamoire:

As always, Peggy Noonan expressed it well: "Why did they weep? Why was everyone so moved?
Because it hits your heart hard when you witness human excellence. Because the true tale of how an illegitimate, lowborn orphan from the West Indies went on to become an inventor of America is a heck of a story. And because it is surprising yet perfect that that story is told in a hip-hop/rap/rhythm-and-blues/jazz/ballad musical whose sound is pure 2015 yet utterly appropriate to the tale."

Miranda read Ron Chernow's biography and wept because he identified with a great story of a great man who overcame all odds, yet a man made with feet of clay. Read it and drink in the story of our country.   

If Americans in 2015 can listen to this tale without a dry eye, then we know the revolution has spent its course and it is time to learn Mandarin. 


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