Political News

DC rises up for Lin-Manuel Miranda as he advocates for DACA, arts funding

Posted 12:55 p.m. Thursday

Washington had its eyes on Lin-Manuel Miranda this week as the "Hamilton" creator made his way to the capital to receive two awards and meet with lawmakers.

The last time Miranda was in town, a video of him rapping in the White House Rose Garden with former President Barack Obama went viral.

Of course, a lot has changed since that trip, which took place in March 2016. Now, "Hamilton" -- which remains a pop culture phenomenon -- is on a cross-country tour. A new President -- Donald Trump -- occupies the White House.

Today's political landscape has helped fuel the 37-year-old Miranda to take advice from his own lyrics and "rise up" to fight for various causes.

Such advocacy has gotten him noticed: Miranda was honored with the 2017 Freedom Award from the US Capitol Historical Society Tuesday, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Medallion of Excellence on Wednesday.

His visit generated buzz on the Hill, as Washington lawmakers from both sides of the aisle gathered to both celebrate him and listen to him address issues he is passionate about.

"I had a really positive experience," Miranda told CNN of his DC trip. "And I got to ride the secret Congress train, which was fun."

Bipartisan appreciation for the arts

While accepting his Historical Society award Tuesday, Miranda made a plea to protect funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, calling the arts "fundamental to our democracy." His speech came several months after Trump's first full budget proposal, which he released in late May, suggested slashing funds for national endowments of the arts and humanities.

Miranda's celebrity was evident from the warm reception he was given by the crowd, especially from the bipartisan group of lawmakers present.

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican, snapped pictures of Miranda with her personal phone; Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi co-opted a section of the song "The Room Where it Happened" from the musical for her speech honoring the star; and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, another Democrat, compared Miranda to other American performing icons like Harry Belafonte and Peter, Paul & Mary. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also spoke about Miranda and her Republican colleague, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, was in the crowd.

Many lawmakers had meetings with Miranda the following day on the Hill, where the Broadway star re-emphasized the importance of supporting arts programs across the US.

"I had a great day because I was talking about National Endowment for the Arts," Miranda told CNN. "We've been very lucky we've had bipartisan support on that score. It's been incredible to see the bipartisan support for that."

Among those who met with Miranda: New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who said she was "so excited" to meet him that she immediately told him her "Hamilton"-related anecdotes: She did her sixth grade project on the Schuyler Mansion and she now represents Schuylerville.

The meeting was with members of the New York delegation, including host Rep. Nita Lowey and Reps. Joseph Crowley, Jose Serrano, Nydia Velazquez, Grace Meng, Kathleen Rice and Adriano Espaillat.

"I think Lin-Manuel Miranda's commitment to history, and presenting history in an accessible way, makes him appealing to both parties when it comes to being an advocate," Stefanik told CNN of the meeting. "I cannot say enough positive things about my experience getting to meet him, and I felt other lawmakers felt other same way."

Stefanik said as a congresswoman, she shares Miranda's passion for the arts.

"In my district, I've met with many arts organizations and arts advocates -- investment in arts has turned into economic development even in a rural district like mine. What I stressed to Lin-Manuel Miranda is that he has bipartisan support."

Defending DACA

Miranda, who was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, has also been an advocate of immigrants' rights. His father, Luis Miranda, is a longtime social activist in New York City.

Miranda helped write the personal appeal "Hamilton" performers delivered to Vice President Mike Pence after a performance in New York shortly after Election Day 2016.

Last week, Trump ended the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which granted legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the US with their parents. He gave Congress six months to find a permanent solution. In the five years since DACA was enacted, the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received the protections have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and universities across the United States.

In the middle of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Gala Wednesday night, news broke that Trump is moving toward a deal with Democrats that would protect the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Many at the Gala reflected on DACA while also celebrating the accomplishments of award recipients Miranda, author Sandra Cisneros and community health leader Castulo De La Rocha.

In his acceptance speech, Miranda emphasized the importance of defending DACA.

"To our legislators in DC, and throughout the country, fighting for your DREAMERS must be your quest," he said while accepting the award. "To civic leaders, community activists, I'm so honored to be here...to our leaders in the business community raise your voices ... to you DREAMERs, you inspire me every day. You remind me what makes me most proud of our country."

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