Lin-Manuel Miranda Talks 'Hamilton,' Immigration and Inspiration at L.A. High School

Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton Curtain Call - Getty - H 2017
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The 'Hamilton' creator was joined by U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas at Panorama High School to address more than 1,000 students, teachers and district officials.

Lin-Manuel Miranda held an energized town hall this week amid heightened racial tensions following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the controversial presidential response.

"If you're a kid and you're scared in this country, there's a lot of adults that are working hard to have your back," Miranda said as U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas gave his unequivocal agreement. "The outpouring of 'this is not who we are' has been heartening for me," added Cardenas.

Miranda was first contacted by Cardenas prior to Hamilton's L.A. opening in an effort to empower and inspire students from underprivileged backgrounds in the district, many of whom consider the Broadway star a relatable role model.

"I asked Mr. Miranda to join me today to remind everyone that people like us can be voices void of anger and hatred, that even though the president of the United States may be the leader of this country, there are many more leaders within it," said Cardenas, "who don't have to have been born here, by the way," he added during the press conference following the talk.

Miranda echoed the congressman's statements and then focused on the fundamentals of embracing one's identity as he answered an hour's worth of questions from students, with topics ranging from his shows In the Heights and Hamilton to his childhood to personal motivations and advice on being an artist.

When pressed about the struggles of breaking through in Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large, Miranda warned about the intent with which the craft is pursued.

"If you decide to be an artist, your job will be auditioning — forever," Miranda said sternly. "Actually getting the part almost never happens, for reasons having nothing to do with your talent," he added. Miranda encouraged those with a flair for the arts to "stick to what they know," as the more personal stories are paradoxically the most universally resounding.

Hundreds of students gathered in the auditorium and actively participated in the Q&A. "Having Lin-Manuel come here honestly has a huge impact on our community because so many of us look up to him and aspire to be him," said Alondra Anguiano, 16, a junior at Panorama High. Her classmate, Jonas Liatis, 17, agreed: "He was exactly like one of us, only on the East Coast — and a genius — but it's still incredibly motivating."

Miranda and Cardenas partnered to bolster the Hamilton Education Program, designed to improve interest and understanding of American history, through its implementation into Title I high schools in New York, Chicago and now Los Angeles. Students from low-income families (more than 20,000 in the past year and counting) are given the opportunity to write and choreograph songs about under-taught historical figures or events of their choosing and — here's the kicker — perform them to the Hamilton cast before the show, which the students get to see for just $10 each, courtesy of a Rockefeller Foundation grant.

"For me, the word 'immigrant' only has positive connotations," said Miranda, who was born in New York and whose family is from Puerto Rico and Mexico, when asked about his extensive involvement in advocacy campaigns and mentoring. "These are people who start a life from scratch and do whatever it takes so their kids can fly. I'm constantly inspired by immigrant life in America, and it's harder now than ever."