This summer my family and I had the opportunity to see the musical Hamilton on Broadway. My son had chosen New York as the destination for a trip to celebrate his high school graduation and we got the tickets just when Hamilton was starting it’s Broadway run. We had no idea that the tickets we purchased would be selling for thousands of dollars by the time our show date arrived (we saw one of the three final performances of the original cast).
While the show is obviously about the life of Alexander Hamilton, as I read up on the show I became more intrigued in Aaron Burr. My father had given me the historical novel Aaron Burr, written by Gore Vidal. I didn’t remember much from it other than Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton. The musical Hamilton is told largely from the vantage point of Mr. Burr. The defining moment for Burr’s character in the show (short of killing the main character) is when he sings that what he really longs for is to be In the Room Where it Happens. Burr is frustrated that Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are plotting to move the capitol to Washington D.C. (among other things) and he’s not in the room. This affront is what drives the rest of Burr’s motives for the rest of the show.
Whatever you think of Burr’s actions, I don’t have any problem with Burr wanting to be in that room. Burr was a smart, passionate, and dedicated man. He wanted to change the world and that was only going to happen if he was where the decisions were being made. Over the last couple of years I have done my best to observe Iowa’s legislators as they set the course for our state’s future. My observation is that many of them try to avoid being in the room where the real work is happening. Even as many of them are running for re-election this fall they seem to be avoiding talking about what happens in those rooms. It seems to me that our Governor is rarely in the room when the real action is occurring.
It is my hope that when Iowans go to the polls in November they elect legislators who want to be in the room. The deals that lead to education funding that doesn’t keep up with the rate of inflation are happening with too few people at the table. Our Republican legislators want us to move towards privatizing schools but they won’t say it in public. Their tactic is to have a few people in back rooms continue to push schools into austerity while businesses receive hefty tax cuts.
While I’m not advocating for legislators that are looking to duel it out, I am looking for legislators who are transparent and eager to get in that room. We should demand that our schools get a chance to take their best shot at supporting kids; they deserve it.