What ‘Hamil­ton’ says about Obama’s pres­i­dency

Themes in the show, which he saw Satur­day, are sim­i­lar to his story

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY JULIET EILPERIN juliet.eilperin@wash­post.com

It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Pres­i­dent Obama caught a show­ing of “Hamil­ton,” the hiphop mu­si­cal about one of the na­tion’s Found­ing Fathers.

Granted, the pres­i­dent saw an early ver­sion of it six years ago: The show’s cre­ator, Lin-Manuel Mi­randa, per­formed a song from “The Hamil­ton Mix­tape” back on May 12, 2009, at the White House Evening of Po­etry, Mu­sic and the Spo­ken Word. Mi­randa, ac­com­pa­nied by Alex La­camoire, belted out lyrics that aren’t nor­mally spo­ken in front of the first fam­ily.

How does a bas­tard, or­phan, son of a whore/ And a Scots­man, dropped in the mid­dle of a for­got­ten spot / In the Caribbean by Providence, im­pov­er­ished, in squalor / Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

Michelle Obama snapped along to the tune while the pres­i­dent laughed through­out it. Once Mi­randa was done singing, Obama led the au­di­ence in giv­ing him a stand­ing ova­tion.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t been to­tally kind to Hamil­ton the per­son: It re­cently pro­posed phas­ing the na­tion’s first trea­sury sec­re­tary off the $10 bill and re­plac­ing him with a woman. But on Satur­day, the pres­i­dent took his daugh­ters, Malia and Sasha, as well as his sis­ter and her hus­band to a mati­nee per­for­mance of the mu­si­cal in New York.

The show opened at the Public Theater in Green­wich Vil­lage ear­lier this year to glow­ing re­views, and be­gan pre­views at Broad­way’s Richard Rodgers Theatre this month. Michelle Obama has al­ready seen it, as have the Clin­tons and U.S. Am­bas­sador to the U.N. Sa­man­tha Power (who took sev­eral of her U.N. am­bas­sado­rial col­leagues along for the ride). For­mer vice pres­i­dent Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, caught it in March, prompt­ing Mi­randa to tweet a ref­er­ence to him and Aaron Burr, who killed Hamil­ton in a duel and fig­ures promi­nently in the mu­si­cal.

“Dick Cheney at­tended the show tonight,” Mi­randa tweeted. “He’s the OTHER vice pres­i­dent who shot a friend while in of­fice.”

The mu­si­cal’s theme meshes per­fectly with the Oba­mas’ vi­sion of pol­i­tics and has sev­eral sim­i­lar­i­ties to the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal story. It is the story of a fa­ther­less boy born on an is­land who rises to po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence on the ba­sis of his in­tel­lect and work. Or as Mi­randa sang at the White House:

The ten-dol­lar Found­ing Fa­ther with­out a fa­ther / Got a lot far­ther / By workin’ a lot harder / By bein’ a lot smarter/By bein’ a self­s­tarter.

The cast in­cludes African Amer­i­can, Latino, Asian and white per­form­ers, in­clud­ing Mi­randa — the son of Puerto Ri­can im­mi­grants — as the star. And the show’s po­lit­i­cal mes­sage — that a group of out­siders can chal­lenge the es­tab­lish­ment — harks back to Obama’s first pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The Broad­way trip was just one stop in a fa­ther-daugh­ter week­end that was crammed with ac­tiv­i­ties. Obama started the trip Fri­day evening by head­lin­ing a Demo­cratic-Na­tional Com­mit­tee fundraiser but spent the rest of the night tak­ing his daugh­ters and friends to the Ital­ian res­tau­rant Car­bone and the Whit­ney Mu­seum for a pri­vate, late-night tour.

On Satur­day, the pres­i­dent also vis­ited Cen­tral Park, ate lunch with his sis­ter Maya Soe­toro-Ng, her hus­band Kon­rad Ng and some friends, and then took in the show be­fore re­turn­ing to the Dis­trict that evening.

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