If you haven’t seen the musical “Hamilton,” chances are you know someone who has. What a phenomenon. It just keeps playing and playing—and with good reason. We finally had our turn to see it. Ellie, our performer, had been going on and on about it and was in her element.
Of course, our seats were so far back, they were across the street from theater, out behind the bar across the way.
Nevertheless, we felt lucky to be there, squinting at the stage while the founders of America were played by modern representatives of Americans who sang in rap and acted and danced their way through the unlikely birth of a bold nation.
Alexander Hamilton was born on a small island in the Caribbean and sent to New York as a teenager to pursue his education. Soon after Hamilton began college, the Revolutionary War broke out, and the young man rapidly became involved, serving on George Washington’s staff and finding himself wrapped in the events birthing America. He wrote prolifically, and his intelligent body of work is still influential today.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the words and music for “Hamilton,” is from Puerto Rico. He was there not long ago as part of a benefit for rebuilding after Hurricane Maria and was very sensitive to how exclusive people have been about the aftermath of hurricanes. He knows well how easily people find reasons to exclude others in our discourse—from voting rolls, from coverage for pre-existing conditions, from the immigration process if it might mean drawing on benefits that cost American taxpayers, from the services of shop owner, and from the resources to recover from the devastation of natural disasters.
It occurs to me that we have to be very careful about defining ways to exclude people, because we risk ending up in lonely places.
There is an alternative. That is to reach out and include, and to recognize that doing this brings so much that’s better and stronger than looking for ways to exclude. Our job at Aspire Health Alliance is to challenge exclusion, and in the process to help people live a life worthwhile.
Not everything the Founders did was perfect. Products of their time, they too excluded large swathes of the population in their vision of “equality.” But we live in our time, with the lessons of history behind us and hope for the future ahead of us. This is our moment to make sure no one is watching from across the street with a diminished view of life but that everyone participates to the fullest.
President and CEO
Aspire Health Alliance