6. President Barack Obama
“And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.”
In his last year in office, President Obama continued the work he started almost eight years ago. He worked tireless to ensure more rights to more Americans, spoke as the conscience of our nation, comforted us through unimaginable tragedy and set an example of how to carry ourselves with dignity, respect and empathy.
President Obama received some of his most irrational and unsubstantiated criticism this past year, but he never wavered from demonstrating a level of respect for the rights of those who would disagree with him, even when they failed to express to him, the most basic of courtesies. When a protester interrupted his speech a couple months ago, he refused to let the audience disrespect that person’s voice.
There are those who feel that President Obama’s economic policy has had a negative effect on our country. However there are also many, including leading economic experts that praise the economic growth that President Obama helped foster. This is a highly debated issue and reflects different philosophies and perspectives more than irrefutable facts.
There is something about President Obama’s work that is irrefutably powerful, and positive. It’s something that we’ve sensed for a while. It was a feeling we got when the President signed his first bill into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that prohibited sex-based wage discrimination. This action along with many others gave us hints of something that our President proudly stated last August in a Glamour magazine article; President Barack Obama is a feminist.
President Obama embraced a label that got twisted and distorted into the disgusting term “Femi-Nazi,” and for a generation of men and also some woman, was the last label they would want to embrace. There has a quiet movement of men, who refuse express their own male insecurities by forcing their wives into traditional gender roles, who stop their male friends from making inappropriate jokes about women and fight for the rights of their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters. The Presidents pride in this label, validated all of us, who are horrified at the complacency of so many in the face of sexism, and want to make the world better for the woman in our lives.
President Obama concluded, “That’s what twenty-first-century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.” As men by embracing feminism we will be free of our limitations, our own stereotypes. By serving the women in our lives, we will find meaning. In the face of incredibly discrimination, sexism, objectification, violence, and hatred, women have refused to give up on our country and on men. So in turn we cannot give up on fighting for women and we must take the lead of President Obama, our first feminist President.
5. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda is not racist.
He has never said anything racist to the press or in public that was racially insensitive or prejudicial, but this doesn’t prove that he’s not racist. Not saying racist things does not mean that you are not racist. The only thing that this proves is that you understands basic social norms and social conventions. Not saying racist things proves that you are not an idiot.
You want to prove that you aren’t racist than do something about racism. Include diverse perspectives and voices that are underrepresented like with Miranda’s musical In The Heights. Place people of color in positions that were previously unimaginable like by casting am African-American as George Washington in Hamilton. Work to authentically represent other cultures like when Miranda collaborated with Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina to create music for Disney’s latest animated feature, Moana. Make a positive change in the way that people view people of color and how people of color view themselves. Basically be like Lin-Manuel Miranda and you can prove that you aren't racist.
In 2016, the glory that is Hamilton just kept growing. With the opening of the Chicago production, and the release of the Hamilton Mixtape album, Lin-Manual Miranda’s masterpiece continued to find new audience members. One of the greatest musicals of all time and what some consider one of the greatest pieces of art ever, Hamilton tells the story of one of the most important founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Musically, it is beautifully crafted with musical motifs intricately woven through out the texture of the score. The music somehow reflects the history of Broadway music, as well as hip-hop culture, weaving these styles together to create a work that is respectful referential with a sound that is uniquely Hamilton.
The story, lyrics and themes in this story resonate with our modern times and is nuanced and humanizing portrayal of the figures from this era, bring us comfort and perspective as we seek to understand what it means to be American.
Then there’s Moana. An animated Disney film with out a princess, or a prince, featuring characters that are all people of color, with songs that Miranda wrote through collaborations with Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina. The songs are some of the best Disney songs since The Lion King. The music of Moana eclipses Tim Rice’s and Elton John’s efforts to be culturally authentic, by bringing Polynesian music alive with vibrancy and respect.
Because of Miranda’s efforts, my son’s first (and only) image of George Washington is Christopher Jackson.
For him, Alexander Hamilton is Lin-Manuel Miranda and the difference between Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette is how Daveed Diggs styles his hair. Because of Miranda’s efforts Ollie’s current favorite toy is a Maui doll from Moana. He dances around with a character that is a person of color and tries his best to sing along with the Polynesian in the songs from the soundtrack. And because of Lin- Manuel Miranda, my son’s world is filled with art that shows him the beauty of racial diversity, a wonderful soundscape of musical styles and stories that are empowering and inclusive.
Check out this video. It’s my son, a interracial child, singing along to a half-Puerto Rican rapper/singer from one of the most successful musicals of all time, making a doll dance from a successful Disney film that has no Caucasian characters.
This is remarkable and extraordinary product of the American dream, but for Ollie it’s simply his reality and what he loves. For my son, this is his normal and for that fact. Ollie has learned that this is the way that the world should be, and for this I will always be grateful to Lin-Manuel Miranda.