It’s the hottest ticket in town. Virtually impossible to get into, let alone get a decent seat at. Yeah, we’re talking about Hamilton, Broadway’s critically acclaimed musical about one of America’s most well-known Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. The play, known for its diverse cast and powerful soundtrack that mixes pop music with R&B and hip hop, is a cultural phenomenon taking over the world.
But while the Broadway musical may be impossible to get a seat at, roughly 300 graduating seniors got a front-row seat to the next best thing — and it’s pretty amazing.
David Beck, an English language arts teacher at Parkway North High School in St. Louis, Missouri, says he was so inspired by the musical that he decided to incorporate it into his commencement speech on Monday, May 9th.
While addressing a crowd of nearly 600 students, families, and friends, Beck put his serious rap skills to use with an inspirational speech set to the melody of Hamilton’s hit “Alexander Hamilton.”
“I wanted to make this year’s speech special,” Beck told Babble. “In past speeches, I felt I struggled to say unique things, because across the country many speeches are being given this time of year and things can sound repetitive. I wasn’t sure if my idea would totally fall flat or be accepted, but I knew I had to be true to myself. “
Well, it’s safe to say his idea definitely did not fall flat.
The video has quickly taken off on Facebook with over 17k views and counting. And when you watch it, you’ll see why.
Beck tells Babble that his amazing speech was not the first time he has rapped for his students. He often likes to incorporate hip hop music in the classroom, like when he paired Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About me, I’m Dying of Thirst” with Hamlet.
“There are so many themes in hip-hop that pair so well with themes in literature,” Beck explains. “The struggle for identity, the internal/external factors in our lives, the hero’s journey.”
The speech took Beck about one week to write and practice, a process he describes as “very natural and fun.”
Four days later, Beck is still surprised by how much his performance has resonated with not only his students, but delighted viewers around the world.
“Many parents stopped me after the speech to thank me for taking a chance and being vulnerable and showing passion,” says Beck. “It was funny to me because it didn’t seem like I was taking a chance or being vulnerable — it was just doing something I wanted to do. I realized though, that if I am always asking students to challenge themselves and take risks, then I better be able to back it up.”
And that he did.
With lyrics like: On senior walk, your eyes filled with tears/ Cause you couldn’t help reminisce about these four years/ And you’re saying goodbye to all of your friends/ As this high school experience comes to an end, it sure beats Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever),” amiright?
And if you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmm, where have I heard of Parkway School District before?” well, this isn’t the first time that they have made headlines.
Last year, 6-year-old Adrianna captured her first day of kindergarten with the help of a GoPro. The video was produced by her proud dad, Derek Duncan, a digital communications specialist for Parkway School District and currently has over 600k views on Facebook. (Yes, it’s really that cute.)
So clearly, the teachers and administrators over there know what they’re doing — and our (graduation) hats are off to them for it!More On