Monday Morning Motivations

In the Room When It Happens

Stephen Tang

In the song “Room When It Happens” from the Broadway show, Hamilton, the character Aaron Burr sings to the character Alexander Hamilton about how he feels like he’s never really belonged anywhere. He talks about how he grew up feeling like an outsider, and how even now as an adult, he still feels like he’s not quite part of anything. This is something that many people can relate to.

We all have a sense of belonging somewhere, but there are also times when we feel like we don’t quite fit in. This song is about those moments when we feel alone and like we don’t belong. It’s a reminder that we all have these moments, and that we’re not alone in them:

Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room

Diametrically opposed


They emerge with a compromise

Having open doors that were previously closed


The immigrant emerges with unprecedented financial power

A system he can shape however he wants

The Virginians emerge with the nation’s capital

And here’s the pièce de résistance

No one else was in the room where it happened

The room where it happened

The room where it happened

No one else was in the room where it happened

The room where it happened

The room where it happened

No one really knows how the game is played

The art of the trade

How the sausage gets made

We just assume that it happens

But no one else is in the room where it happens

Burr’s missive is quite ironic, since Hamilton was the archetype “outsider” as an immigrant (from Nevis), with controversial ideas (to consolidate financial power in the nascent United States), viewed as overbearing as an orator and politically tactless. In contrast, Burr was born to a prominent New Jersey family, and became a leading New York politician.

While Burr is not present in the titular room where it happens, he sings of his envy for those who are, expressing his desire to be included in such moments. He sings of how he can feel the weight of history in a room and sense when something important is about to happen.

The song reflects on how history is made by those who are present for key moments, and how those who are not can only look back on what happened with regret. It highlights Burr’s feelings of insecurity and loneliness, as well as his longing for power, companionship, and acceptance.

I wanna be in the room where it happens

The room where it happens

The room where it happens

The art of the compromise

Hold your nose and close your eyes

We want our leaders to save the day

But we don’t get a say in what they trade away

We dream of a brand new start

But we dream in the dark for the most part

Dark as a tomb where it happens

I’ve got to be in the room

“The Room Where It Happens” is a powerful song that speaks to the human experience of longing for what we seemingly cannot have. It is a reminder that history is made by those who are in the room when it happens, and that sometimes we can only look back on what we missed with regret…or resolve to be in that room when the next “it” happens.

What cause or purpose in your life requires you to belong and be there when it happens? How will you get there? 

#RoomWhenItHappened #Belonging #ATestForOurTime #CrisisLeadership #NextNormal

[Image credit: Hamilton]

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