Blog: Latino Ed Beat

It Was an Immigrant Who Built U.S. Financial System, ‘Hamilton’ Star Reminds Grads

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the speaker at the University of Pennsylvania's recent commencement ceremony, stars in the Broadway musical "Hamilton." Source: Flickr/ via Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)

“Immigrants get the job done,” Lin-Manuel Miranda told graduates at the University of Pennsylvania’s commencement ceremony Monday. After all, it was a “broke, orphan” immigrant who built this country’s financial system.

Miranda would know, since he stars as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a hit Broadway show named after the founding father. (For more on how “Hamilton” is making its mark in education, as well as show business, check out this PBS NewsHour story.)

As NBC News reports, Miranda said, ”In a year when politicians traffic it 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.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric also came up in President Barack Obama’s speech at Rutgers University’s graduation Sunday, when the president took a jab at presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to “build a wall,” though he didn’t name the presumptive Republican nominee.

Since he launched his campaign last year, Trump has been vocal about wanting to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stop Mexican immigrants — whom he has called drug smugglers and rapists — from entering the country illegally. 

“The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that,” Obama said. 

At Penn, Miranda’s remarks on immigration earned a standing ovation from students and the university’s president, Amy Gutmann. 

The actor, who also composed the music for “Hamilton,” addressed first-generation college students as well, telling them that their stories are essential and, ”I know that many of you made miracles happen to get to this day,” as his family did.