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My View: Lessons from ‘Hamilton’

October 17, 2016

By Jay Banez, D.D.S.

Jay Banez, D.D.S.
If you’ve been watching late night talk shows or national news programs like “60 Minutes,” you may have heard about the Broadway phenomenon, “Hamilton.” The production is written by and stars musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda and has been grabbing headlines across the nation. I had the opportunity to see this musical in New York City this past summer and have learned a lot about one of our nation’s founding fathers in a new, more engaging way. If you haven’t heard about “Hamilton,” I encourage you to at least listen to the original Broadway cast album, which has a hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and even Beatles-esque style influence.

Aside from its media accolades, the story about the “$10 founding father” has quite a few pointers on how to establish yourself from nothing. Through trials and tribulations, Alexander Hamilton was a self-starter, well-educated, determined man who influenced even the most powerful of politicians (at the time, President George Washington). Hamilton’s history would take volumes to examine, but a few lessons worth noting can be learned from this man’s resilient, unforgiving, go-getter attitude. All quotations are lyrics from the Broadway play, not specifically Alexander Hamilton’s exact words.

“Stand for something” — When Alexander Hamilton met Aaron Burr, his boisterous introduction caused Burr to advise Hamilton, “Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for,” after which he responded with “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” In our profession, we advocate for the health and wellness of our patients through patient education and sometimes face adversity from people who argue against fluoridation, amalgam and other health initiatives that have proven benefits. Whether through ASDA Engage, attending national meetings like the American Student Dental Association annual session and getting involved in our communities, we are taking a stand for our profession and protecting our future careers. “Rise up” and stand for something.

“Nonstop” — Hamilton was a scholar and relentless when it came to learning and education. The father of the U.S. Treasury and defender of the U.S. Constitution was referenced as “writing like [he] was out of time.” He bought his way to America by teaching himself law and economics in the Caribbean. Hamilton never allowed himself to become stagnant in life. The lesson here is never become complacent in life. Dentistry is a profession that is constantly evolving, just like the national landscape during the infant years of our nation. Just as Hamilton sought after ways to improve America’s democracy, we too should constantly feed ourselves with knowledge and training that will better our profession. Through continuing education courses, shadowing opportunities and mentorship, we can add to our clinical competencies and ensure we provide the best care to our patients.

“Don’t throw away your shot” — Even with many highs in
Hamilton’s life, there were also lows. Alexander was disliked by many because of his outspoken personality. He was involved in infidelity and was kicked out of his influential government position because of it. Though unfavorable to run the U.S. government, he never “gave up his shot” and persisted through the tough times with resilience. So should we during the tough times in our lives, namely the four-year institutions we have given our blood, sweat and tears to. Never give up because something is too hard. Studying for part II boards seemed to loom over my head and dragged me down to despair but knowing great effort brings forth many blessings, giving up is not an option. (Also, don’t be 100 percent like Hamilton — be faithful to your significant other.)

Whether you’re a history buff or not, Alexander Hamilton is a historical figure worth learning about. In the infamous duel between Hamilton and Burr, Hamilton fell by the bullet of Burr’s gun. Though the end of life brought sorrow to his wife, Eliza, Hamilton was revered by his fellow founding fathers. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison (to name a few) tell “[Hamilton’s] story” — a story filled with foundations of the America we live in. With the help of Broadway, Miranda and his lyrics, learning about history just got more interesting. Telling the story of Alexander Hamilton through modern theater and hip-hop influence makes relating history’s greatness to our own lives exciting.

So who “tells your story?” If you stand for something, work nonstop to defend it, and don’t give up your shot. Your story as a student ambassador to the field of dentistry and involvement in ASDA will allow you to further the work of our profession going forth. In the words of Miranda’s Hamilton: “I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”

This article, reprinted with permission, originally appeared on Dec. 14, 2015, on Mouthing Off, the blog of the American Student Dental Association. Dr. Banez wrote this while a student at the Marquette University School of Dentistry and is now in a general practice residency at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.