Lin-Manuel Miranda’s University of Pennsylvania Commencement Speech Will Move You to Tears
Although he didn't drop a few bars, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda did drop a few lines of inspirational advice in his 2016 commencement speech for the University of Pennsylvania on Monday.
"My dear, terrified graduates — you are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives," Miranda said.
In his speech, Miranda told the graduating class to stick to their dreams, trudge through the mud and gather their own Hamilton-worthy stories to one day share. "There will be blind alleys and one-night wonders and soul-crushing jobs and wake-up calls and crises of confidence and moments of transcendence when you are walking down the street and someone will thank you for telling your story because it resonated with their own," he said. After all, he would know.
Miranda also shared two stories of his own, both of which carry the theme of following one's heart and gut. The first — and probably very relatable — is when he kept avoiding breaking up with his long-distance high school sweetheart despite developing a weird nervous tick. "You're trying to avoid going through pain, or causing pain," his doctor told him. "I'm here to tell you that you'll have to survive it if you want to be any kind of artist." So Miranda bit the bullet and now him and his ex are leading separate and happy lives.
"They are the stories in which you figure out who you are. There will be moments you remember and whole years you forget."
The second story is when he refused to change a character, Nina, in his play In the Heights based on a producer's suggestion, despite being desperate to get his show on stage. That perseverance translated to another five years until production, but it also led to feeling totally satisfied with the end result.
It's moments similar to these — the temp gigs, internships, struggling relationships — that help define who we become, especially when we are tempted to play it safe because the stakes feel too high. "Your stories are essential," he said. "Don't believe me? In a year when politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system. A story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again, immigrants get the job done."
He continued, "They are the stories in which you figure out who you are. There will be moments you remember and whole years you forget."
Watch the speech below, which starts at around 2 hours and 30 minutes: