In the beginning of the Presidential differentiated Event Series, Ron Chernow common his reaction to the success of the play based upon his biography of Alexander Hamilton.

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Historian and also author Ron Chernow to be the inaugural speaker because that the GW Presidential distinguished Event Series. (William Atkins/GW Today)

By T. Kevin Walker

Ron Chernow winner the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for his biography “Washington: A Life,” yet it was another one that Mr. Chernow’s 6 bestsellers that carried him Wednesday night to the George Washington University—named because that the nation’s very first president. The irony was not shed on Mr. Chernow.

“I confess that i feel vaguely guilty that ns am below talking about Alexander Hamilton tonight instead of George Washington,” Mr. Chernow said from the stage at Lisner Auditorium. “But together is the very nice of a certain musical about Hamilton that it’s a small hard because that me to protect against the male these days.”

Actor/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s love that Mr. Chernow’s 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton” influenced him to create the hop-hop-infused Broadway smash “Hamilton.” since the musical’s debut in 2015, Mr. Chernow and his work have been in greater need than ever before.

“If girlfriend didn’t think it was possible to it is in a absent star biographer, you room going to learn tonight we have a rock star biographer ~ above campus,” GW President thomas LeBlanc claimed as he presented Mr. Chernow, who was the inaugural speaker of the GW Presidential differentiated Event Series.

Mr. Chernow is most pleased the the success that the musical has elevated Mr. Hamilton, who Mr. Chernow credits with creating the federal government system and wall surface Street and also paying off costly debts incurred from the Revolutionary War. Mr. Chernow stated he composed the publication to give Mr. Hamilton his just deserts.

“He appeared to be fading right into obscurity. Hamilton appeared to be related to as a sort of second-string starting Father,” he said. “He wasn’t quite up there with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and also Thomas Jefferson, but he was as significant as any type of other founder.”

Mutual friends associated Mr. Chernow and Mr. Miranda, who told Mr. Chernow that Mr. Hamilton’s story—that of an orphaned immigrant who against all odds came to be a battle hero, political powerhouse and also the very first treasury secretary—was a standard hip-hop narrative.

While the author agreed the “fairytale” top quality of Mr. Hamilton’s life had large appeal, the was unconvinced that the story of such a complex figure might be called via hip-hop.

“Like any type of member of my generation, I had actually these stereotypes about hip-hop—that it was cold, violent and also misogynistic,” the said.

Mr. Chernow’s doubts eased after ~ Mr. Miranda paid a visit to his Brooklyn home and also performed one a cappella variation of “Alexander Hamilton,” i beg your pardon would become the musical’s opening number. Mr. Chernow recreated the scene, come the great delight the the Lisner Auditorium crowd, by snapping his fingers and also rapping the very first minute that the song.

Mr. Miranda’s decision to actors African-American and also Hispanic gibbs to portray white historical numbers shook the theater world and raised countless eyebrows, including Mr. Chernow’s. As the musical’s historical adviser, Mr. Chernow knew nothing about the actors until he attended a dress rehearsal.

“I thought, ‘What on earth is Lin thinking?’” the recalled.

Mr. Chernow stated after just a few minutes of watching the cast weave magic top top the stage, the was focused on the actors’ tremendous talent, no their races.

“The present has one foot in the 18th century and also one foot in the 21st century,” that said.

Mr. Miranda likewise used imaginative license in telling his variation of Hamilton’s story, and also not constantly to Mr. Chernow’s liking. Because that example, in the music Mr. Hamilton is booted from john Adams’ cabinet; in reality, Mr. Hamilton never ever served under chairman Adams.

Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky, a GW alumna and also White House historical Association chronicler who involved Mr. Chernow in a Q & A after his remarks, claimed audiences, particularly younger ones, aren’t given sufficient credit because that being an essential thinkers.

“There’s vital distinction the there’s a difference in between art and also history, and also (“Hamilton”) is art. Students recognize that, and also they will concerned classes and come to their teachers to find out what yes, really happened,” Dr. Chervinsky said.

Mr. Chernow is tho pinching himself, can not to think that his publication inspired the worldwide phenomenon the is “Hamilton.” Fans, plenty of not yet old enough to vote, clamor to take selfies through him and often greet that by performing song from the musical.

“Nothing delights me more than we’ve gained millions and also millions that young world interested in American history,” that said.

The Presidential differentiated Event collection was initiated by Dr. LeBlanc based on feedback he obtained from students throughout the very first year of his presidency.

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“Students claimed they want more free events and also opportunities to affix with high file speakers who are transforming culture and transforming the world, and that’s what we space going to do,” Dr. LeBlanc said.