‘It’s About What We Do with Our Time’

There was something very touching, comforting and familiar about today’s last keynote of this year’s GIA Convening. Even though it was larger-than-life Lin-Manuel Miranda and his equally impressive father, Luis A. Miranda Jr., I found myself frequently thinking during their conversation not so much about their achievements but about how to raise my son so that he would grow up caring about his community and where he came from—and one day look at me with equal parts bemusement, love and understanding the way Lin-Manuel looked at Luis.

Moderator Maurine Knighton, program director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, former GIA board member and part of the this year’s convening planning committee, as well as longtime colleague of Luis, skillfully drew out stories of the Miranda family taking their kids to community meetings, of Lin-Manuel as a boy with his clipboard registering voters, and that long before they had money to give, they believed in giving time, energy and sweat equity into organizations.

As Luis said, “You have energy and human capital and mental real estate, all of those things are important components you can share with an institution or a movement. We could not give tens of thousands of dollars before, but we made commitments to our communities to fight with them and to be with them.”

For more than 40 years, the Miranda family has been social activists, building and supporting institutions in communities throughout New York City, Puerto Rico and the country, and most recently partnering with the producers of Hamilton and the Flamboyan Foundation to create the Flamboyan Arts Fund for the arts in Puerto Rico. It was fascinating to see the synergy between father and son, with Luis bringing decades of movement activism and political work to the table while Lin-Manuel spoke of realizing how no one was going to “write his dream show” if he didn’t do it, and so paving his own way with In the Heights and later, with Hamilton, seizing the opportunity to open the floodgates for people of color in theater even wider.

And what an absolute treat to hear an artist reflect on the changing relevance of his work in light of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter uprisings, and—hanging over it all this ongoing question about what becomes of this beautiful struggle of an American experiment. As Maurine very insightfully asked, is there a resonant message in Hamilton, again, about making your moves despite not having everything in place, especially at the dawn of a new administration?

Here’s what Lin-Manuel said: “At the end of the day, it’s about what we do with our time. What are you gonna do with this time that you are alive? You have two characters, Hamilton and Burr, one who is terrified to get anything done for fear of making mistakes, and the other who makes tons of mistakes because he’s heard the clock humming as soon as he became aware of it. And Eliza leaves a legacy of philanthropy – while all these men were worried about greatness, she worried about goodness. The character not concerned with doing great things, had the greatest legacy.”