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tv   QA  CSPAN  April 24, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am EDT

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[captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corop. 2016] announcer: next, q&a with ron chernow talking about his biography of alexander amilton. then, and david cameron takes questions from the house of commons. after that, a news conference with president obama and angela merkel. >> this week on q&a, historian ron chernow. he talks about the hit broadway musical "hamilton" and the consulting work he did on it. the show's creator based the musician on mr. chernow's biography of alexander hamilton. brian: ron chernow, when did alexander hamilton first get on your radar? ron: i started writing about it in 1998. it seems rather comical because the reason i chose to do
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hamiltonnle aside from the fact he was the most extraordinary story among the founding fathers was that he seemed to be fading into obscurity. people were coming to regard him as a second-tier founding father. most americans know him from the $10 bill, but that was about it. it was comical, i felt as if i was lifting him out of the security. -- obscurity. now his name 0 -- is on the marquee of a broadway show. brian: what were you doing at the time? ron: i have finished writing my biography of john rockefeller. i had done a series of books about moguls in the gilded age. i found that when i would go out to give lectures, people would start shouting out, do vanderbilt, do carnegie. i felt like i was getting stereotyped as a biographer of gilded age tykeons and i decided i wanted to switch periods. alexander hamilton was the perfect exit strategy.
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i knew there would be a lot of financial and economic history. but it would also expose me to a new era, constitutional law, military history, on and on. plus, the most amazing story that i've ever written. brian: you probably don't like this question -- is there somebody today that would come closest to the way alexander hamilton thought about government? ron: that is a difficult question. alexander hamilton was the most verbal politician in our history. if he felt strongly about an issue, he would write a series of essays over the course of a ew weeks about it. think hamilton would fit very uncomfortably in an era of tweets in soundbites. he was very rational, deeply intellectual.
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and principled. i cannot think of anyone stylistically reminds me of alexander hamilton. would that which had him on the scene. brian: in 2004, your book was number one on the paperback bestseller list and on the combined "new york times" list, in the top 15 all these years later. ron: as we talk, five straight weeks at number one for an 800 page book that was published in 2004 -- it is safe to say that that is unprecedented. it's really quite extraordinary. brian: what's the year like? >> well,it has had a profound effect. it is through the looking glass experience for me. the greatest has been having lin-manuel miranda take this biography and translated into a vivid three-dimensional life on stage. it has been deeply touching, the way i have been embraced and incorporated into the show. not only the creative, but the
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cast members. i have never been involved with the show before. maybe never will be again. i decided that i wanted to have every experience i could have with a broadway show. i was at every workshop, theater festival, rehearsal. i sat in on the recording of the album. i said in one performance with the orchestra under the stage. i have been a lifelong theatergoer, never imagined i would be on the other side of the footlights. it has been enchanting. brian: as you watched it, what was the most difficult part? ron: in my book, i have hundreds of characters. one thing that i realized was that history is messy and complicated. broadway shows have to be very short and tightly constructed. there is a conflict between that. in a musical, you have to have
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eight or 10 principal ib characters. you have to establish them early, and keep developing them. there are certain places in the show where things happen accurately, but we done by other people. for instance, there is a scene where jefferson -- where madison confronts hamilton bout the reynolds scandal. he actually was confronted by three jeffersonians, but not those three individuals. what i loved about working with lin, in those cases where he used dramatic license, he would try to incorporate authentic elements into the scene. even if he had changed something. brian: if you go on the website today, you cannot buy tickets. how far has it sold out? ron: through january 2017.
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brian: all of this year and january of next year. on the resale websites, $1000? might get you in. ron: people have been scalping tickets for up to $2500. they are routinely scalping for 1000 or $1500. brian: what do you think of that? ron:it has been frustrating for us, because we didn't create the show for hedge fund managers and private equity people and we've been doing what is within our power to try to offset that. for instance, there is a lottery every night for the entire first row. people can get tickets for $10 if they win. we also have, starting in april, every wednesday, they will be a matinee for new york city schoolchildren -- 11th
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graders in title i schools, free lunch schools, so they will be morrismostly black and latino -- audiences. they will be sitting there for $10 apiece. not only will they see the show, they are going to have a q&a with the cast afterwards. their teachers have been supplied with curricular material so they can use the show as a vehicle to teach bout american history. we are trying to broaden out the audience. we are aware of this problem. it is a nice problem, but it is a problem. brian: you got the washington prize for this book? ron:i got the washington prize for alexander hamilton. brian: so did lin? ron: they asked me to get up there and say attribute to him. brian: i want to show you a piece of tape from that ceremony. >> i know you are expecting me
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to stand up here and start snapping my fingers and breaking into couplets, but i'm afraid i'm going to disappoint you. one side of me is dying to do exactly that. 'm going to do it. no -- i'm not going there, lin. i'm not going there. not going there scombrp lauferlaufer [applause] someone save me. i have had this fantasy about going on the stage, and i told lin i would like to do the opening number -- they can pull me off with a hook afterward. for some mysterious reason, he has decided not to throw on my unique theatrical talents.
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ron: i have never seen lin laugh as hard. he and his family were sitting at the tables right in front of the podium. he was doubled over. when he got on stage, he received the award and said, i cannot believe it, we have ron chernow rapping on c-span. that has been a fantasy of mine to go on for the opening. brian: it is a two hour and 55 minute show. you can purchase all of the music -- how much can you do by memory? ron: i can do most of the first song. i know lots of different portions. i have seen the show about 50 times. i was very intimately involved with the creation. hen i started working with lin, he would send me the song via e-mail. i would hear him and see him singing along with psychedelic screens.
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i was absolutely astonished. he sang the opening number at my apartment, started snapping, sitting on my couch. e started singing. i said, that is the most extraordinary thing. you have taken the first 40 pages of my book and condensed it accurately into a 4.5 minutes on. what i didn't say to lin but i was thinking it, boy, it was a little embarrassing that he had distilled 40 pages to a four and a half minute song and done it so accurately. brian: we have a photo of lin-manuel miranda with your book in the water. is that when he first got it? ron: when i met him in 2008, he
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was still starting in his first show. he invited me to a sunday matinee and i went backstage -- i had heard that he read the book on vacation and it made an enormous impression. he said, i was reading your book in mexico and as i was reading it, hip-hop songs started rising off the page. and i said, really? he said alexander hamilton's life was a classic hip-hop narrative. i was thinking what on earth is this guy talking about? i think that lin prettied up that he had a world-class ignoramous about hip-hop on his hands. my first question was can hip-hop be the vehicle fortelling this very large and complex story? he said, ron, i'm going to educate you about hip-hop, and he did on the spot. he pointed out that in hip-hop, you can pack more information
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in the lyrics than any other orm because it is very dense and rapid. he started talking about the fact that hip-hop not only has rhymed endings, it has internal rhyme -- he started educating me in all of these different devices that are very important to the success of the show. i am not a complete ignoramus about hip-hop anymore, just ostly. brian: is there any -- anything in the show that you directly had an impact on? ron: oh, absolutely. in terms of the relationship between hamilton in washington, i was having lunch with lin and he said to me -- he was trying to figure out what the dramatic essence of that relationship was. he said to me, when washington met hamilton, would washington have seen hamilton as a younger version of himself? i said, absolutely, because
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washington when he meets hamilton, hamilton is 22. when washington was 23, he was the head of the armed forces in virginia, let his man into a terrible massacre. there is a beautiful song in the show where washington seems about, let me tell you what i wish i had known when i was young. that was very thrilling to me when we had that discussion. the next time i saw a new version of the show, to see that scene in that song and realize that it came directly out of it. but even, you know, very late in the game,for instance, that the public theater where it originated off-broadway, i said to lin, there is one big policy point missing from the show, which is that when hamilton became treasury secretary, the country as bankrupt. the time he left, we were as
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credit worthy as any other country in the world. amazing feat. in the closing scene of the show, madison comes out and says, he took us from bankruptcy to prosperity. for that, we will forever be in debt. he does not get enough credit for all the credit that he gave us. that was a direct response to what i had just said. that was pretty late in the ff-broadway run. lin is always prepared to listen. he was very good at filtering out whatever ridiculous or asinine things that i would say. he had a very good instinct. he was always fully open. he was diplomatic. if i said something that he thought was completely absurd, he wouldn't disagree, he would simply stare at me
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ordless. brian: you were born where? ron: brooklyn. brian: mr. miranda? ron: lin was born in new york, the westside. brian: and alexander hamilton? ron: he was born in the caribbean. he spent his adolescence on one of the virgin islands. around the age of 17, a hurricane hit the island. a letter was published by him in the newspaper describing the storm in shakespearean terms. he was a legitimate orphan at that point. the local merchant suddenly recognized they had his young genius in their midst and they took up a collection to send him to the north american colonies to be educated. he came armed with a few
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letters of introduction but he did not know a soul. hamilton is not only the original immigrant, but a completely self-made, self-invented figure. ll of the other founding fathers were either virginia planters or boston lawyers. born in the original 13 colonies. hamilton was the outsider. he started life with as many disadvantages as the others had advantages. brian: here's about 20 seconds of the music. he tune is "stay alive." it shows his relationship with general eisenhower at the time. at the time he was an aide to general eisenhower, how old would he have been? ron: you are talking about washington? [laughter]
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brian: yes. i'm getting down the road. ron: hamilton is 22 when he meets washington. washington would have been 5. ron: this was the valley forge winter. the continental army was sitting there amidst -- the problem was the farmers were selling the food to the british orces in philadelphia. i remember lin had sent me very beautiful, mournful music for valley forge.
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and you would hear the words of thomas payne over the music. those were the only words that survived from that original draft of that scene. lin is extraordinary in terms of plucking out what he needs for a scene. e is a disciplined writer. it is hard for a writer to strike at a beautiful line. lin has the ability to do it -- i am not sure i do. but he does. brian: he is what age? ron: lin is 36. brian: during the first constitutional convention, the ounding fathers were 30? ron: he would have been 32, then 34 when he became treasury secretary. brian: so all of this had been done by young people.
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ron: this is an interesting point. so much of the attention about the show has concentrated on the fact that this black and -- and nd biracial cast of course that is what startled me -- but what has not been sufficiently emphasized is how young the actors are. i grew up with a bunch of late middle-aged white actors in wings. d buckle husband in "19 -- 1776." here, there are very few people in the cast who are over 40. in the same way that this black and latino cast enables the audience to enter into this experience, providing a bridge between the sensibility of today and the sensibility of then.
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i think that the fact that the show reminds us that the american revolution was made by young people. i think that is very exciting. tanned really hasn't been talked about. brian: at that ceremony when lin got the washington award, folks said they were going to fund 20,000 young people seeing it? ron: we got a grant from the rockefeller foundation. we will have one wednesday matinee a month with 11th graders. brian: why 11th? ron: they are studying this period of history. brian: how far has that gone nationwide? ron:we have in the works 3-4 productions. they will be a chicago production opening in september. it will be in los angeles next year, san francisco, one or two
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national touring companies. so i'm hoping that -- and then it is going to be in london. as the show goes to other cities, i'm hoping it is not the rockefeller foundation, another philanthropy will do exactly what we are doing in new york for the reasons stated earlier -- this is our most important audience. thank god from the time the cast album came out in october, it already sold 252,000 copies at it is almost every word of he show. it is two c.d.'s. it has the complete libretto inside. the cast album as much as the show has enabled the hamilton musical to really enter into american popular culture in no way that i have never seen with a broadway show. every day, i get an e-mail from
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friends saying, my six-year-old is driving me crazy. she listens to the cast album again and again. i write back and say, there are worse problems than having the child who only want to talk about the founding fathers. you know? whoever thought that would be a problem? brian: this is what the the britto looks like -- libretto looks like. and if you haven't been to the show, you have to read this to know who's talking. ron: we really have two audiences. we have the audience inside the theater, and that's 1,321 people every night. 10 maybe 10,000 people a week. i feel as if we have a much larger audience across the country of people who are listening to the cast album and reading the libretto. and "newsweek" online recently did an issue that teapears
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cross the country are already using the show and the cast album and an educational tool. there will be a certain moment where the producers will allow schools to start to license the show and perform the show. we all hope this is going to be the most widely-produced musical in american schools for many years. brian: here is lin outside the theater in august 2015 when he would entertain the folks waiting in line. >> thank you for making this possible. i hope you all come to the show. i think we are going to run a long time. n the early 1850's, to
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-- two pedestrians strolling past a house in washington knew the white house realized that the widow seated by the window was the last surviving link to the early republic. earlier on a ledge overlooking the hudson, aaron burr fired a hot at alexander hamilton. in a misbegotten effort to remove the man burr regarded as the main impediment to his career. ron: that was actually opening night on broadway. lin came out two hours before the show and read the opening paragraphs of my book. i was very startled when i saw the clip you there are a couple moments where he is almost on the edge of tears as he is reading it. as powerful as i know his response was to the book, i learned something new about how deeply he felt.
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we both fell in love with eliza hamilton, who has been an -- a completely unknown figure to the american public before then. i think we really have changed that. brian: here is lin at the same ceremony where you did the rap. so people can see a little bit more -- he's speaking -- of what he's like. >> ron's version of hamilton is what made me fall in love. the first two chapters out-dickens dickens. in terms of the hardship hamilton faced and the incredible odds he overcame to come to this country and helped shape it. it has been an incredible journey working with ron and learning about this history. the secret sauce of the show is, i am learning this stuff one chapter ahead. i am falling in love with these characters and i'm falling in love with the fact that they are not the people i grew up learning about in ap u.s. history.
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they are flawed, messy. burr came alive when i realized -- he was dating her when she was still married to that guy who was a general down in bermuda. i said, this is a guy who waits for what he wants. that unlocked him for me. brian: explain more about -- aaron burr. ron: the way that lin presents the hamilton-burr conflict, not just at the very end of hamilton's life but throughout is that they were rivals. he presents them as having very, very contrasting personalities, which i think is true. hamilton is a very aggressive and confident person, burr is a ore cautious individual. he would hang back. during the war, burr fell in love with the wife of a british officer.
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there is a scene when hamilton says, if you love this woman, why don't you go get her? it is meant to point out the difference in personality between the two men. as time goes on, the difference in politics and ideology will become even that much more important. that is what lin is referring to. brian: as long as we are on this affair, you mention this earlier. we have an answer from the rogram about reynolds. this pamphlet was written when? ron: 1797. brian: wand -- and what was the reason? ron: what happened was, when hamilton was treasury secretary, a beautiful 23-year-old woman came to his door.
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she had been abandoned by her husband james reynolds and she was in need of money. hamilton was then the most powerful and controversial man in the government. amilton slipped out of the house, went to her rooming house, said he found her at the top of staircase. he said she then ushered him into a bedroom and he wrote a famous line and made itlear -- that that other than pecuniary compensations would be sybil -- acceptable -- acceptable the that was the start of the affair themr. reynolds suddenly appeared and it's at a stop in the affair decided it would be fun to charge hamilton with the pleasure of his wife's company n bed. it was so reckless of him to enter into the affair to begin
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with but then suddenly he is paying hush money to the husband when all of the jeffersonian press is circling around him trying to get some dirt on him. hamilton is giving them the biggest story that they would ever get. brian: isn't there a difference in the broadway show from the actual way it happened? ron: yes. you are asking before if there were things that were changed. what happened in actuality was that a scandal mongering journalist, who was a jeffersonian, published these charges claiming that hamilton had paid money to james reynolds because they were secretly engaging in speculation treasury security together. hamilton publishes this pamphlet saying, no, i was paying money to james reynolds, before the favor of his wife's company.
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i said to lin, i thought it was confusing to the audience because in the show it seems as if hamilton was preemptively publishing this pamphlet after jefferson and madison told him that they know about these payments. lin did not have the pamphlets that provoked hamilton. lin added a line at the end of the scene with burr, jefferson, and madison. rumorsys, alexander, only grow. wonderience is going to why he preemptively publishes this pamphlet. brian: thomas jefferson, james madison, angelica is in this, along with aaron burr, and hamilton.
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let's listen. [begin video clip] ♪ [end video clip] brian: with all of the success you had in 2004, are you finding people that are learning more about alexander hamilton and the founders? ron: every single time i am at the theater, at least one person comes up and says, i loved the show and as i was watching, i was embarrassed to realize how little i knew about the history of my own country and i am determined to change that. it is nice that a lot of them are reading the book or other books about the founding era.
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i said to lin, i don't know what your next show is going to be. i said, you have had an impact in terms of stimulating an interest in american history that i have never seen. i just hope that periodically in your career, you circle back to american history because i think every biographer has said the same thing, that we did not feel that we were reaching young people. when i do a lecture or a book signing, typically the audience is about 35-40 and up. the, 70, 80. whereas lin has this magical connection with people of all ages. a friend even told me that she took her three-year-old to see the show in the girl was bouncing and swaying in her seat.
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i have seen the show with people in their late 80's who were as starry eyed as that child. lin is worth his weight in gold in terms of stimulating young people to read about american history. brian: how important to the success of the show was his appearance in 2009 at the white house in front of the first lady and president? ron: for a personal standpoint it was very helpful. you have to understand that for all of the years we worked on this, before people saw the show, i would say, i am involved in a show that will be a hip-hop musical about the founding fathers and they would look at me like i was crazy. it was a little bit like "the producers." they try to come up with the single worst idea for a musical and they come up with
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"springtime for hitler." that is how people were reacting to a hip-hop musical. right before the show opened, i was walking in past two young women on the street and i heard one say to the other, it is a musical about alexander hamilton and they both started laughing and then the woman said, and it is hip-hop. they were roaring with laughter. the one thing about the white house clip is that when people would start laughing, i said, watch the clip from the white house. everyone who saw the clip then called me up and said, that was extraordinary. brian: let's watch. [video clip] >> i am thrilled the white house called me because i am actually
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working on a hip-hop album, a concept album about the life of somebody who embodies hip-hop, alexander hamilton. you laugh, but it is true. he was born a penniless orphan in st. croix, illegitimate birth, became george washington's right-hand man, became treasury secretary, had beef with every other founding father, and all on the strength of his writing, he embodies the ability to make a difference. [end video clip] brian: what had happened to lin miranda? what does success mean to him? ron: he has already said that he is going to stay in the show through july. that was his announcement in the beginning. i think you would like to move on to his next show. they are doing eight
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performances a week, it is difficult for him to clear his mind. i recently heard him say that when he took my book on vacation to mexico, it was the first break he had had when he could open his mind to another story. i think the show has made him a superstar. people are running after him with every conceivable offer. lin is the original multitasker. the year that he was sending me the hamilton songs, he always maintained psychological continuity with the show. i think that lin has another 6, 8, 10 wonderful musicals in him. i hope some of them revolving around american history. brian: from a financial standpoint, do they have to
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buy your services? ron: lin optioned the book. the interesting thing is that the book came out in 2004. it was optioned three times in hollywood for a feature film, as often happens, it disappeared into a blackhole. hollywood couldn't figure out what to do with this story. i kept saying to my agent, i don't get it, here is the story of an orphan kid from nowhere who set the world on fire. violence, sex scandals, duels, all of the ingredients you could want. miranda knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. brian: in the back of your book in the acknowledgments, you say there was a study to find out
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whether alexander hamilton was black. said the information is going to come later. what happened? ron: i discovered from geneticists that if i had direct male hamilton descendents, descendents who had the hamilton name, i had them swapping out of their mouths and sending them off to a laboratory for genetic testing. the results were inconclusive. i was thinking to myself, wouldn't it be great for race relations and we suddenly had a biracial founding father? doing it was very instructive for me because it made me realize that race, americans tend to think of it as something precise and distinct -- becomes very nebulous on the genetic level.
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it turns out that so-called races have more in common with each other than differences when you look at the genetic material. when hamilton came to north america, he was illegitimate he always say, my birth has been a subject most humiliating. he was always haunted by references to his legitimacy. there was always in the press -- john adams called him the creole bastard. there were a lot of references to his racial makeup. when young people came from the caribbean, it was not unusual for them to be the product of the union between a white master and a female slave. we have a lot of paintings of hamilton.
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it is not apparent just from the pictures of him that he would have been biracial. as i tell it in the book, his father may not have been james hamilton, it may have been a man named thomas stevens. hamilton's best friend from boyhood was somebody named ned stevens. everybody who knew hamilton then suddenly had the chance to meet ned was bowled over by the resemblance, that they looked like brothers which makes me think that they probably were. lin decided that that was probably one complication too many and decided not to deal with that, which could have been difficult.
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because he starts the show in 1776, in the opening song, telling us everything that we need to know up until that point in hamilton's life. that would have been quite a bombshell to drop into the first song. brian: here is more video from that event. by the way, it was $50,000? ron: i think so. brian: you got it. i think that is accurate. [laughter] [begin video clip] [applause] ♪
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[end video clip] brian: that is the trailer that they used to publicize the show. you said off-camera that those -- that is your family now. ron: i am running with a very cool crowd now. it certainly changed my image around town. it has been so moving that they have invited me into their world. brian: any chance we will see you on stage? ron: no, although i am hoping that on june 12, tony night, i hope i will be on the stage if
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we win for best musical, which i think we have a reasonable chance. i do not think i will be on stage at the theater. although, i keep mentioning it as a possibility. brian: alexander hamilton, the main things that he did before dying at 49. ron: ok. the first act, when the revolutionary war, hamilton was washington's aid. the second act, the constitutional convention. hamilton issued the plea to meet in philadelphia. he was the sole new york delegate to sign. he originated and wrote 51 of the 85 essays considered the
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classic -- on the constitution. he became the first treasury secretary at age 34. he created the treasury department, created the tax system, the first fiscal system, the first central-bank, the first coast guard, the first custom service, on and on. hamilton was the architect of the federal government. brian: did you like alexander hamilton after you lived with him for so long? ron: on the one hand, hamilton was very charming, witty, charismatic. it was easier like that side of him. he was also brash and dangerously self-destructive. i had tremendous admiration for what hamilton had accomplished. i often say, the wonderful thing about this story was that you could admire him, but his flaws were so serious that we can all
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identify with him. he is at once very human and superhuman, depending on the moments. it is a fascinating story of someone who was as brilliant as hamilton was, flawed and fallible. when we were creating the show, there was this notion in broadway that the central character should be sympathetic. he should be rooting for the central character. hamilton, with the reynolds pamphlet and other things, hamilton is constantly testing the sympathy of the audience. it has been interesting that people walk out of the theater with tremendous admiration and affection for him. the reason is he becomes real to them. this is the big mistake that we make in our schools teaching history. we think that in order to love a
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historical figure, we should present a series of statements. the students are very bored and the figures seem unreal. if you can capture them accurately, they will love these characters. brian: where did you go to high school? ron: forest hills high school in queens. i did two degrees in english literature, at yale and cambridge. brian: you must at some history classes? do you remember them? ron: history should be the most exciting subject. so often, it is memorization. i do not remember having exciting history classes. i think that i, like a lot of people out there, discovered -- some people were lucky enough to
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have fantastic history teachers, i don't mean to denigrate -- i think that my story, in their 30's and 40's, they one day on their own pickup a piece of history or biography and a star reading andstart they say, this is fascinating, how come they never felt that before? having a sensation constantly with the show that people are coming and saying, how come no teacher let me know how passionate and brilliant in argumentative and fascinating these characters were? brian: the last time you visited was for your washington the, a book as big as the hamilton book. now, what are you doing? ron: i'm doing ulysses s. grant. brian: how hard is it to live in different centuries? ron: extremely hard. mornings and afternoons, and i
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am during the reconstruction of the civil war. then, nights and weekends, i am back in the 18th century. occasionally, when i come up for air, i am in the early 21st century, but only occasionally. because my books are very long packed with information, when i finish a book, there is a delete button in my mind that wipes out the whole book. his like my mind is tired of having to keep all of this information. whereas i have not only had to keep the ulysses s. grant book in my mind, but because of the show, hamilton in washington -- sometimes i feel like my brain is bursting with these books in my mind is crying for release. brian: when will you finish the grant book? ron: i'm hoping to finish it this year, and it will come out
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next year. i have just had so many distractions with the show -- pleasant distractions, but still distractions. every time i think that the interest in the show is going to subside, it actually intensifies. brian: what do you think of grant? ron: in terms of searching for topics, i always look to people whom i think were misunderstood. with hamilton, hamilton had been very demonized. when i was growing up, the idea was that jefferson was a virtuous man of the common people in that hamilton was this villainous figure, a tool of the plutocrat. i tried to show that hamilton was much more liberal than he had been portrayed.
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and jefferson, maybe less. similarly with grant, i always try to start at with some of the myth around someone. grant was actually a strategic genius militarily. or, grant the drunkard. that turns out to be a very complicated story. grant, the president whose presidency was riddled with corruption and nepotism. hardly the whole story. reconstruction was a big story of his presidency. there is so much that has been forgotten by ulysses s. grant. i'm hoping that when the book comes out, it will be as surprising to most people as hamilton or the other books have been. they are going to see so many more dimensions to this figure.
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brian: if you were able to interview george washington, hamilton, or grant, or rockefeller -- who would you choose? ron: i would choose george washington. of all of the figures, he was the most important and the most mysterious. just the kind of people to stare at him in study him. if i wanted someone for his intellect, clearly alexander hamilton. but i think that washington was the indispensable man who made everything else happened. in writing about hamilton, i certainly came to feel that his achievements were up there with washington. brian: we found some video that lin miranda put on youtube when
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he was a young boy. i want to know if there is any video of you that would exhibit this kind of talent. [begin video clip] ♪ [end video clip] brian: this is before hip-hop, i suspect. ron: i think it is safe to say there is no such video in their chernow family archives of me
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dancing on my bed. i was probably playing stickball. brian: has anybody shown any interest in doing a broadway show on washington? ron: there is interest in doing dramatizations, in terms of television and film. i'm hoping that will happen at some point. when lin told me that hamilton's life was classic hip-hop in that hip-hop was a perfect fit, i did not understand what he was talking about. i understand now, because there is something about the way lin presents him, hamilton is presented as this very, very intense, frenetic character. here you have this very dense hip-hop music, and there something about that personality and style that perfectly meshed. took me time to see what must have come to lin in one blinding flash, that this life and music would match.
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brian: we're almost out of time. has there been anybody that didn't like the show that wrote about it? ron: the only review i can remember that was at all critical was in "the new yorker." otherwise, we have had hundreds upon hundreds of ecstatic reviews of the show. it is inevitable that somebody would come along -- when you have everybody saying it is the greatest show, somebody will come along and say, i don't think it is so great. brian: did you know this was going to happen? ron: no. i remember in january 2012, lin did a performance of 10-12 songs at the lincoln center. the audience was people in their 20's and 30's.
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they were not even staged, really. he sang these songs and every member at the end, although these young people were on their feet cheering, screaming, and it looked around and said, oh, my god, is this a preview of the future? every time the show was tested, that was then reaction. when we were at the powerhouse festival, the place was crawling with producers from new york. just the first act was done, and every producer in the room was saying, this is the greatest thing i have ever seen. we had intimations that it might happen but we couldn't have predicted that it would be quite such a sensation, or that it would be not only a theatrical
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phenomenon but a political and cultural phenomenon. we were all at the white house a couple weeks ago. i don't think there's been a sitting president of the united states who came twice to see the show, the first lady twice. we have had the obamas, the clintons, the cheney's, every hollywood and broadway star you can imagine. it has been a who's who rate passing through. that is something none of us could have imagined that it would be quite this kind of sensation. brian: ron chernow, author of "hamilton," thank you very much. ron: it was a pleasure, thank you. >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q-
11:57 pm programs are also available as c-span podcasts. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer: if you like this program, you can watch our interview with him from 2010 where we talked about his biography of george washington. other interviews you might enjoy include michelle easton and david stewart. he has been a guest twice, first in 2007 and again in 2015. you can find these programs online at tribes -- >> monday night on "the
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communicators," the topic of a new book by ted koppel. -- book, "like town," "lights out," examines the potential for attacks on the electric grid and the degree to which government agencies and electric minis are prepared to respond to an attack. >> the notion that you are going to give over control of the defense of your industry requires that you give up a lot of information. there was a bill passed last fall in the senate, after years of wrangling, that now has private industry willing to pass on information to the government. but only after they have sanitized it. communicators"
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monday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2. announcer: next, prime minister's questions at the british house of commons. then, president obama continues his trip with a stop in germany where he had a joint conference with angela merkel. later, the former head of u.s. central command talks about military challenges in the middle east. this week, david cameron spoke about president obama's visit to the united kingdom. he also took questions on education, trade, and immigration. due out very soon. >> questions to the prime minister. [shouting] >> question number one, mr. speaker. >> thank you, mr. speaker. this morning i had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and in addition to my duties in this house, i shall
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have further such meetings later today. >> thank you, mr. speaker. on her 21st birthday in 1940 7a young woman declared that her whole life whether long or short would be dedicated to the service of our nation. >> here, here. >> nobody could possibly argue that her majesty queen elizabeth ii has been anything other than fulfill her promise to the nation with dignity and grace. >> here, here. >> people across the country will be marking the queens birthday, 90th birthday tomorrow in many different ways, many honorable and right honorable members will join for the queen initiative tight enough our neighborhoods. some will be raising a small glass and many will be having a proper -- so when the prime


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