I wrote this letter to my Dad while he was deployed abroad. It dealt with some ideas I’d been wrestling with for some time, namely on paths to public influence in the intellectual and political realms. He, and my mentor Dan Schnur, whom I sent a copy to also, both seemed to think this is a good and proper way forward; I therefore move forward on this path.
You know, mentors of mine have suggested to me that I consider getting into one of the trades- business, law, consulting, etc.- so that I can become as financially independent as possible, and so that I can learn and master the dealmaking, money-managing, and negotiation skills necessary for successful political life. It’s not a bad set of ideas, and I’m not closed to the notion.
That said, the more I study great heroes of mine, the more I realize that this is not necessarily the only path to influence, and though it may perhaps be the easiest path to influence, it is certainly not the one I am most suited for. Four heroes of mine and two contacts of mine would seem to demonstrate this with their career paths they have followed.
Theodore Roosevelt was many things- a scholar, a soldier, a public servant in government, a politician, an adventurer. He was never a businessman, a lawyer, or a consultant.
Winston Churchill was many things- a journalist, a soldier, a public servant in government, a politician. He was never a businessman, a lawyer, or a consultant.
Henry Kissinger was many things- a scholar, a political advisor involved in Republican politics, a soldier, a public servant in government. He was never a businessman, lawyer, or consultant (until after his peak of influence.)
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was many things- a scholar, a sailor, a political advisor involved in Democratic politics, a public servant in government, a politician. He was never a businessman, lawyer, or consultant.
Moving forward to today, two contacts of mine- my boss Joel Kotkin, and my contact Robert D. Kaplan, are similarly situated (though without the political involvement.)
Joel Kotkin is many things- a scholar, a journalist, a political advisor and policy consultant who advises city governments and centrist politicians.
Robert D. Kaplan is many things- a scholar, a journalist, a political advisor and policy consultant who advises the defense and foreign policy communities.
All this being said, some things are clear to me:
First, that you can attain high positions in government, either political or departmental, without being a businessman, lawyer, or consultant, and while being nothing but a writer and a politician (though it helps to be a military officer.)
Second, that Kissinger and Moynihan were scholars of another era, and that scholars of this era- such as Kaplan and Kotkin- can be highly original and influential without necessarily being PhD’s or attending graduate school.
Third, that it is at least somewhat possible to make enough money to be financially independent as a writer, a journalist, and a scholar, and there is nothing in that field barring me from political involvement or government service such as Roosevelt and Churchill, Kissinger and Moynihan, or Kotkin and Kaplan have done.
So, I think I know how I can move forward, given that I love writing, scholarship, and journalism, and political involvement, and that I aspire to government service of some sort and am in the process of entering military service.
First, I must graduate…
Second, I must emulate the careers of Joel Kotkin and Robert D. Kaplan to some degree- continue my opinion journalism work and establish myself as a public writer, continue my scholarly work and establish myself as a public thinker, perhaps by writing a book, and continue my political involvement, hopefully by assisting and eventually advising political figures and even government figures. There are several avenues for this; I could enter into a PhD program, I could work at a think-tank, magazine, newspaper, or other entity, I could work for some politician. These spots are rarer in California than in DC, but I’m sure I can find something. There is also always the prospect that I can become a Park Ranger or Forest Ranger.
Third, I must continue my involvement with public life so far as is possible. That involves continuing my transition into the National Guard, continuing my activism in the California Republican Party (and deepening it, once I graduate and find my new home) and perhaps serving in government as an aide or running for local or state office.
Fourth, I must maintain relationships with people who can help me do all of these things, and build relationships with people who can help me do more of these things.
Fifth, I must figure out what, precisely, I am going to specialize my journalism and scholarship in. This could range anywhere from American political philosophy to American history, though I will certainly cast a broad net of interests even as I specialize in one in particular. I’m considering writing a project on the political, geopolitical, and developmental economic history of California; writing on that could help me specialize in California history, politics, and policy in the present day, and make me an expert in something others do not have expertise in. Then, I still would likely continue writing on broader American and even world history; but a well-done project on California geopolitics in an American and international geopolitical context could rocket me further into the ranks of known writers and thinkers.
Sixth, I must maintain my character, purpose, personality, and life balance throughout all this, since the combination of journalism, scholarship, political advisory, political involvement, government service, and military service I seek to live will certainly be draining even if it is fulfilling. Political life, in particular, has the potential to sap my character, and I therefore must cultivate it that it may weather all political storms. Aside from moral and religious cultivation, this must involve life balance, to include adventure, family and friend life, community involvement such as Scouting and church, recreational study, and other “hobbies” and avocations. Perhaps it is time I got back into ecology, botany, and poetry.
Just as Roosevelt and Churchill were warrior-scholar-statesmen, so I can be. I am already on that path; I need only continue it.
Thanks for always advising me and caring for me, and see you when you get back from Kuwait and I get back from California!
Last month it occurred to me that I might be a bit more organized in my life if I wrote down everything I’m committed to doing and had it in front of me for frequent reference. The realization that this would be useful came while I was speaking with a mentor of mine, the historian of the moderate Republicans Geoffrey Kabaservice. He asked me if I could name five fun things I’d done over the summer, and I couldn’t name any; and I realized that I should probably explicitly make time for non-professional things in my busy schedule, something that would be made easier by knowing what, exactly, my priorities were. A later conversation with another mentor and former boss, Adam Garfinkle (Editor of The American Interest) on the subject of life balance through handiwork and craftwork alongside mind-work reiterated the point.
Below, in no particular order, are the various activities and commitments occupying my time as of my 23rd birthday, September 10th 2016. It’s more a projected list of how I intend to spend my time than an accurate list of what I’ve done with my time, if that says anything about my priorities and aspirations. Some might note that this is a neurotic exercise something like Ben Franklin’s ‘Art of Virtue’ plan described beautifully in the Autobiography; it very much is.
Luke Phillips Life Balance 2016-2017
Classes at USC
-Breakthrough Generation Application
-2018 Campaigns and Politicos Networking
-Nixon Library Job application
Personal Political Study and Writing
-Reading Books on politics, economics, history, philosophy, culture, etc.
-Reading Articles on the same
-Preparing to Write Books and Essays preparation
Publications to Contribute To Monthly or Bimonthly (projected)
-Glimpse From the Globe
-The American Interest /perhaps National Affairs and The American Conservative
-Republic 3.0, Washington Monthly
-AHA Society Blog
Professional Research and Writing
-Nixon Library Projects
-Joel Kotkin/Center for Opportunity Urbanism Projects
-John Hay Initiative Projects
-Neighborhood Legislature Campaign Work
-CAGOP and LAGOP events
-Special Forces Tryouts Preparation…
-Church every week
-Read Catholic and Christian thinkers, the Bible
Socializing and Conversation
-Coffee with people
-Maintain letters with some pen pals
-Pacific Crest Trail Crew
-Therapy and Meds