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White House Poetry Slam Features Alexander Hamilton

By Vige Barrie
Posted November 17, 2009
Tags Alexander Hamilton
A rapid-fire-rapped history lesson about Hamilton College’s namesake was one of the most popular presentations at the White House’s first-ever poetry slam. Assuming the role of Aaron Burr, Lin-Manuel Miranda offered a review Alexander Hamilton’s life as part of this event titled “Poetry, Music and Spoken Word.”

Miranda's performance - along with jazz singer Esperanza Spalding, poet Mayda del Valle, and actor James Earl Jones, among others - was Webcast live from the White House. Miranda’s “diverting four-minute interlude,” as described by The Atlantic’s James Fallows, caught the attention of alumnus Steve Culbertson ’79 who alerted others in the College community.

Miranda is the writer and composer of the Tony award-winning hip-hop musical “In the Heights.” In his musical tribute to Hamilton, he said that he was working on a concept album “about the life of someone I think embodies hip-hop: Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. You laugh, but it’s true! . . . All on the strength of his writing, I think [Hamilton] embodies the word’s ability to make a difference.” Miranda’s performance garnered a standing ovation from the crowd, including the Obamas.

Hamilton College, originally called Hamilton-Oneida Academy, was founded by Samuel Kirkland and named for Alexander Hamilton, who was a member of the College’s first Board of Trustees. Affirming both the legacy of Hamilton and the words of Miranda, the College offers a writing-intensive curriculum that emphasizes the necessity to think, write and speak with clarity, understanding and precision.

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