Ministre Nikolla, Director Labi, hard-working teachers, dear students,
Who can tell me what kind of hat this is? It’s a tri-corner hat popular in England and the American Colonies around the time of the U.S. war of independence.
Who knows the name of the most popular musical now on Broadway in New York City? I’ll give you a hint, it involves a person from America’s early history.
It’s Hamilton, a rap-music celebration of one of the writers of the U.S. Constitution. Here’s a video from the musical. [play video]
Hamilton is such a rich and interesting story because he started with nothing and rose to be one of the most important people in America’s history. He was born the illegitimate son of a married woman and a Scottish trader, who was not her husband, in the exotic British West Indies in the Caribbean. He soon became orphaned. He went to work at age 11. And he went on to go to King’s College, now called Columbia University, and to serve as General George Washington’s chief of staff and later a drafter of the American Constitution. He died in a duel with the future Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr.
The album of the musical Hamilton is currently the number 3 most popular album in the United States. I love this because this retelling of the life of an American hero is appealing to a whole new generation through rap music. If you haven’t heard the album, I just downloaded it last week on to my iPad and it’s fabulous.
American history if filled with these incredible stories of regular people caught in extraordinary times. Times of revolution, technological innovation and societal turmoil. These are stories of determination, self-sacrifice and tremendous courage in the face of impossible odds.
Why is this relevant to all of you and why is this relevant to Albania? I believe that your society is also going through amazing and positive changes.
I had a conversation with an Albanian friend of mine who is helping to write the judicial reform amendments to the Albanian Constitution. I told him, I hope you are keeping notes to tell one day the unbelievable story about how a few brave legal experts are working night and day for months to try to save this country from a corrupt and politicized system of judges and prosecutors. Like Alexander Hamiliton, they are working against the pressure of political elites and powerful politicians to write a constitution for this nation which will endure for centuries to come.
In closing, American history is relevant to all of you because in this audience today I am sure we have a future George Washington, a Thomas Jefferson, an Eleanor Roosevelt and an Amelia Earhart. In your lifetimes, you will experience tremendous change and opportunity. I hope that early American history can give you some inspiring stories about how other people in a young democracy helped to build their country.