Journalism major Angelee Gonzalez ’23 recently co-moderated an online conversation with Luis Miranda, the father of Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, about the elder’s depiction of his life in the HBO film, Siempre, Luis. Gonzalez spoke about her experience and how she came to moderate the discussion while living on Emerson’s Boston campus.
Q: How did you come to be the moderator of this event?
Gonazalez: The Siempre, Luis Q&A with Luis Miranda was a live event hosted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. I have been affiliated with GLI since December 2017 as a member of their Student Advisory Council. For almost three years, I’ve maintained a strong connection with the Institute through my participation in various events, including attending in-person meetings at their Manhattan office/virtual meetings on Zoom, being a featured presenter at the annual Gilder Lehrman Institute Galas in 2018 and 2019, and being one of four college students to speak on an undergraduate student panel in August of this year, part of an Advanced College Prep Seminar hosted by GLI.
Through my involvement in the Student Advisory Council, I’ve become close to James G. Basker, the president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute (and longtime friend of Lee Pelton), and he personally invited me to moderate the Siempre, Luis event.
Q: Were you the only moderator?
Gonzalez: Including myself, there were four moderators at the event, all of whom are also Student Advisory Council members and of Hispanic/Latino ethnicity. I was the lead moderator and only college student.
Q: How did you prepare?
Gonzalez: As the lead moderator, I was responsible for opening and closing the discussion, introducing Luis Miranda to the audience, and initiating the Q&A.
The events team at GLI did so much to help me and my fellow moderators prepare for the event. A few days before the event, we attended a practice session on Zoom, where we went over the discussion schedule and were given pointers on what to do in case of technical difficulties or unplanned incidents. I received a script and I was granted access to a Google document in which selected audience questions from the Zoom Q&A chat were organized for us moderators.
Q: How do you think the conversation went?
Gonzalez: I believe the conversation went wonderfully! Luis Miranda is such a lively and interesting person, and he seemed to really enjoy interacting with the moderators and answering audience members’ questions. There were countless moments in which we couldn’t help but smile and laugh at his answers, often tinged with some type of humor. To my surprise, it hardly took any time for my nerves to settle; his attitude really helped me ease into the conversation. Throughout the event, audience members expressed their sentiments in the live chat, thanking us moderators for our efforts and emphasizing how much they enjoyed the discussion, which made me feel more confident.
Q: What interactions have you had with Lin-Manuel Miranda? What’s that been like for you?
Gonzalez: I met Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Gilder Lehrman Institute Gala in May 2018. Both of his parents were awarded at the Gala, so he was in attendance as a special guest speaker and performer. The event was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and in the middle of all the gala’s chaos, Mr. Basker introduced him to me very suddenly.
Honestly, I was completely star struck — at the time, I had recently seen Hamilton and performed in a school production of In the Heights about a year before, so meeting Lin-Manuel was everything to me. I managed to thank him for everything he’s done to magnify the people of Puerto Rico, both on the island and in New York City. My identity as a young Puerto Rican woman from Brooklyn is close to my heart, so from my point of view, Lin-Manuel’s efforts to shine a light on the beauty of my fellow Ricans demands utmost respect.
Q: What is the Advisory Council for?
Gonzalez: The Student Advisory Council is an ongoing and ever-changing advisory board of the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Our main purpose is to brainstorm ideas for the education sector of the Institute and to review existing programs and materials available for learning U.S. history at all levels, including Advanced Placement and SAT Subject Test prep. Since joining the Council in December 2017, I’ve watched the Council grow in different ways. What began as a group of 30 students from private and public middle schools and high schools in New York City is now an international student board that meets biweekly instead of bimonthly, thanks to Zoom.
Q: Please talk about the work you did for the council and as a participant in the [GLI’s] Hamilton Education Program.
Gonzalez: As I mentioned before, most of my work for the council consisted of testing out and rating various Gilder Lehrman Institute education resources, and this review process usually happened during meetings. Council members are essential to the success of GLI’s educational programs because of the unique perspective we provide to the adults in charge. We are consistently asked to approach their beta programs as we would with any other supplemental academic materials, and to give our honest opinions on the materials’ effectiveness in clearly presenting information. Another responsibility I have as a member of the Council is to represent the Institute with an emphasis on why learning U.S. history matters to me.
A specific responsibility I remember having was describing my experience as an AP U.S. History student at a Title I high school in New York City to the Institute’s Board of Trustees. I spoke to GLI’s trustees, many of whom are affluent people of status in business and higher education, about how selective opportunities can be in schools of mostly low-income students. I did my part in representing my roots and urging the trustees to invest in low-income community schools and educational programs.
The Hamilton Education Program: I got a free ticket to see Hamilton in January 2019 as a U.S. history student of a Gilder Lehrman affiliate school. The Gilder Lehrman Institute created the Hamilton Education Program as a way for U.S. history students at schools with low-income student majorities to connect with the subject through the popular musical. Before the trip to Broadway, my AP U.S. history class had a special lesson on the founding era of the United States using Gilder Lehrman Institute materials, including videos of Hamilton scenes pertaining to specific events in history. We also had the opportunity to create thematic performance projects, and “finalists” competed to represent our high school as performers on the Richard Rodgers Theatre stage. On the day of the show, we watched performers from each high school in attendance and participated in a Q&A with Hamilton cast members before the show.
Q: How has your time at Emerson College helped you?
Gonzalez: In my time as an Emerson student, my roles in Gilder Lehrman Institute events have increased in significance and responsibility. I never anticipated being a panelist or a moderator until the opportunities came, and even then, I accepted the invitations not fully knowing what to expect. What allowed me to succeed in carrying out these positions is my ability to adapt to change and deliver when it is needed most, skills I’ve picked up through Emerson’s journalism classes, specifically. Adaptability and dependability are among the most important qualities for journalists — and all communicators — to have, and knowing that I can apply these values to other positions is gratifying.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to share about yourself, moderating the online conversation with Luis Miranda, the Advisory Council, the Hamilton Education Program, or anything else?
Gonzalez: As a young person navigating a changing world, I feel that I owe so much to the Gilder Lehrman Institute on personal and professional levels. As a member of the Council, it’s a privilege to participate in future-forward discussions about American history and politics with a diverse and intelligent group of peers. The Institute makes me confident that my generation will be the ones to implement changes for America’s future, and that access to an uncompromised knowledge of our history is the key to avoiding repeating its mistakes. I also can’t overlook the many opportunities the Institute has given me, especially the opportunity to meet influential people and begin expanding my network.