2018 has been a year of trauma for the United States, which is why for my final article this year, I want to end things on a positive note - with Barack Obama appearing on the final Hamildrop, Lin-Manuel Miranda's series of Hamilton covers.
I've made no secret of my love for Hamilton since I first saw it at the Public Theater before it transferred to Broadway. Like any great work of art, it contains multitudes. It has not only pushed musical theater forward but also film and television - one of 2018's best films, Blindspotting, was co-written by and starred Hamilton alum Daveed Diggs. And it has done wonders for hip-hop and popular music with both its Hamilton Mixtape and Hamildrops, a collection of covers from the score featuring some of the biggest artists in music today - and Barack Obama himself.
The song Obama appears on is "One Last Time," sung in the show by George Washington when he announces he's not running for a third term as President. One of the most moving songs from the whole score, it features Washington reading and singing an excerpt from his famous farewell address, in which he praised the Constitution, warned Americans to hold anyone who would seek to undermine it with suspicion, and reflected on his own accomplishments and missteps. Obama himself reads the spoken portion:
“Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think probable that I may have committed many errors. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will view them with indulgence, that after 45 years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults and incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as I myself will soon be to the mansions of rest.
"I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, and the happy reward as I trust of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.”
The ties between Obama and Hamilton run deep. Miranda first introduced Hamilton to the world at a performance at the White House in 2009. When the Obamas saw it on Broadway, Michelle called it the greatest work of art she'd ever seen in her life. Miranda returned to the White House in 2016 with the rest of the cast to perform songs from the show.
Now, almost ten years after that first performance in 2009, he and Barack Obama have brought everything full circle. While the current president is making a mockery of the world's most powerful democracy, it is comforting to know another living President still brings respect and dignity to the office he once held.