Two Letters to My Dad on My Ambitions

Luke Phillips



I would willingly sacrifice my life, though not my character, to exalt my station…” –Alexander Hamilton

Some time after writing my “Warrior-Scholar-Statesman” letter to my Dad, I wrote these two follow-up letters. (They may well be the first of many; I have a habit of reflecting and fantasizing through writing.) The proximate cause was my final realization that I’ll never be able to formally serve the United States of America in its Armed Forces due to my mental health disorders and treatment. This was and will always remain one of my greatest shames; but as with all great shames, it is only the fodder of great redemption. Though I cannot serve the United States in uniform and shape my character through military life, there are plenty of other ways I can serve and grow, and these letters were partly explorations of those possibilities.

The other proximate reason I wrote these letters was to develop a sort of benchmark to which I can return to measure my progress as the years go by. As I like to say, no plan goes according to plan; but on the other hand, it’s better to move forward thinking you know what you’re doing, than to move forward with no goals or plans at all. Adjustments can only be made to substance, not to nothing. So I lay down these goals and outlines for my future, knowing full well that they’ll likely change as dramatically as the plans I laid out five years ago changed. I’ll reflect on the end result once I get there.

All that being said, here, in the following two letters, are my aspirations as of early 2017 concerning what, exactly, I hope to do with my life, as expressed to my father over the imperfect medium of email:


First Letter: Things to Do to Be the Man I Want to Be

Hi Dad,

I wrote up this brief little planning guide earlier today, as I was thinking about how to move forward into becoming the man I want to be. Given that military service is now permanently off the table, I need to find something to replace it and, rather than being a Scholar-Soldier-Statesman, be a Scholar-Servant-Statesman. How to do that is yet to be determined, but I presume working as a Diplomat in the State Department would be a good way to do that, or possibly as a government civilian like a Park Ranger or otherwise a political appointee somewhere in government. Regardless, I’ll be following the party-hack/political-operative route too, I think.

I also added a lot more stuff about personal life and personal character in this one, since I think that’s important.

Anyway, you get the idea. Gotta follow a similar path to Robert Kaplan, Joel Kotkin, Michael Lind, etc., leverage that to become someone like Kissinger, Moynihan, or Shultz, etc., while living the adventurous and public life of Machiavelli, Hamilton, or Roosevelt, a life of the body, the assembly, and the mind.

The first part is a list of things I want to be, and the second part is a listing of ways I can get there. Basically, I just need to be doing exactly the things I want to be doing, and applying to jobs where I can also be doing what I want to be doing.

I think the key, career-wise, at the moment, is to do The Public Interest Fellowship for the next two years in DC, which’ll be a good opportunity to write, study, and network. I can regroup and push forward into other things from there.


Stuff I want to be-


-Expert on geopolitics, grand strategy, national security (SCHOLAR)

-Expert on Hamiltonian political economy and government affairs (SCHOLAR)

-Expert on Hamiltonian constitutionalism and political realism (SCHOLAR)

-Expert on American history, esp. political-social history, history of the Hamiltonians, etc. (SCHOLAR)

-Expert on world history, esp. political-social history, diplomatic/strategic/geopolitical history, history of the great statesmen, etc. (SCHOLAR)

-Prolific writer and scholar- Books, longform essays, op-eds, reports (SCHOLAR)

-Moderate Republican operative and policy advisor and strategist (STATESMAN)

-Talented statesman, negotiator, administrator in diplomacy and national domestic politics (STATESMAN)

-Excellent public speaker (STATESMAN)

-Excellent networker (STATESMAN)

-Man of good character (MAN)

-Man of interesting personality and wide experiences (MAN)

-Family man and lover (MAN)

-Devout Catholic (MAN)

-Rough Man of adventure and action, particularly outdoors and through extensive travel (MAN)

-Moderately talented poet (MAN)


The way to get to all of these places is simply to do all of them. In order:


-Read on geopolitics, grand strategy, national security, etc. extensively

-Read on Hamiltonian political economy and government affairs, etc. extensively

-Read on Hamiltonian constitutionalism and political realism, etc. extensively

-Read on American history- political-social history, history of the Hamiltonians, etc. extensively

-Read on world history- political-social history, diplomatic/strategic/geopolitical history, etc. extensively

-Write books, longform essays, op-eds, reports, etc. prolifically.

^^Find a job that pays you to read and write. PhD? Think Tank? Magazine Staff Writer?^^

-Connect with and work for Moderate Republicans and their causes

^^Find a job working for Moderate Republicans. Consultant? Caucus director? Policy/Legislation advisor?^^

-Get into the State Department or other diplomatic branch of government

-Run for elected office

-Find more opportunities to speak publicly

-Find more opportunities to network

-Improve character through reflection, study of biography and ethics, practice in dealings with people

-Cultivate an interesting personality and wide experiences through reading, having wide experiences in cultural things, adventure, travel, conversation, etc.

-Develop personally into a good man capable of being a good husband and father; find willing wife :/

-Attend church regularly, study the Catholic faith

-Have outdoor adventures in various fields; steel yourself to adventure; travel widely through America’s wildlands, especially in the West; travel widely around the world; backpack, shoot, kayak, hike, ride, and do other outdoor adventure sorts of things

-Read more poetry, write poetry frequently

-Study great lives of people you admire: Machiavelli, Hamilton, Roosevelt life-wise, and Kissinger, Moynihan, Shultz / Kotkin, Lind, Kaplan career-wise



Second Letter: Ten Golden Years?

Hi Dad,

I went the Nixon Library the other day and discovered that Richard Nixon became a U.S. Congressman at the age of 33. As someone who wants to go into a life in politics and public life, I figure that’s as good an arbitrary age as any to use as a goal. Other figures I admire, like Teddy Roosevelt, Alexander Hamilton, and Winston Churchill, spent their 20s and early 30s training themselves for their future public lives, becoming American (or British!) heroes with impressive resumes, and generally developing their character, style, worldview, and intellect for what would become fascinating political careers.

Additionally, I’m 23 right now- I’ll be 33 in ten years. That gives me a decade to live a life of preparation, study and reflection, action and adventure, socializing and networking, to build myself into the man I want to be who will eventually serve the public in as many ways as possible.

So below, I copy (rearranged) the list of life objectives I outlined earlier today on a yellow notepad. All these are goals I feel I should strive to accomplish before I turn 33, so that by the time I turn 33 I’ll be qualified, prepared, and positioned to enter American public life in a formal leadership role. I have intentionally left most of them rather vague, and added commentary in brackets for some of them. There are many paths I can take to most of these accomplishments. It’ll keep me busy and active for quite some time, probably shuttling around and traveling around the country and maybe the world for a good long while. No matter- should be interesting.


Goals Age 23-33, 2017-2027



-Complete Research Fellowship [Hopefully New America’s Millennial Public Policy Fellowship, possibly Public Interest Fellowship]

-Work in Legislature- DC or Sacramento, or both [either as staff, in Capital Fellows Program, legislative aide, etc.]

-Travel across America and report on it [as a writer, perhaps as a scholar, perhaps as a journalist; need to learn more about my country as it is today, in addition to studying its history and culture in great depth.]

-Travel through the world’s geopolitical hotspots [and great centers of civilization] and report on it [as a writer, perhaps as a scholar, perhaps as a journalist; would be very interested to embed with U.S. military and other militaries in conflict zones. In this regard, my models are Robert D. Kaplan and Winston Churchill. Additionally, must read world history, civilizational history, regional history, etc. alongside getting a feel for each place in itself.]

-Write 2+ books [options outlined elsewhere, but some potential masterpieces I could write include a study of American public philosophies of Clay and Lincoln and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt; a Geopolitical History of Civilizations; a Geopolitical History of the United States; and Alexander Hamilton’s great unfinished Full Investigation of Civil Government, updated for the experiences of civil government since Weehawken, especially the United States Government.]

-Write 20+ reports [on various policy issues]

-Write 20+ essays [on various stories and philosophical issues]

-Write uncountable op-eds

-Develop expertise in 5 fields [probably including geopolitics, political economy, government administration, American history, and political theory] and mastery of 2 of these fields

-Conduct many speaking engagements and become a legendary orator

-Develop at least 3 big ideas or frameworks [in the sense of becoming a useful public intellectual who people go to for specific ideas]

-Consult for and advise elected officials and government officials regularly [at all levels]

-Develop vision for mid-21st Century America [to spend the rest of my intellectual and political career in public life fighting for and turning into a reality] [A Great Spacefaring Republic, an Empire of the Stars, a Republic and a Union protective of Liberty and the American Dream]

-Build national network of contacts and power-brokers all across the country, in various fields and walks of life

-Build a winning and governing Reform Faction of the California Republican Party, capable of electing a GOP Governor and Senator in California

-Prepare myself, physically and intellectually and skills-wise, for National Service of any sort- military, intelligence, diplomatic, emergency management, etc.- in the event of a national emergency in my lifetime that calls for good men to save the country and lowers standard barriers to service [my mental health issues]

-Serve in state and national government bureaucracy

-By age 33, 2027, prepare to be worthy and qualified to attain either: 1. Congressional seat. 2. Statewide office in California. 3. Undersecretary position in Federal Government.



-Sharpen and deepen life philosophy and political philosophy

-Find home base- probably somewhere in California, like Orange County or San Diego

-Become and remain rugged, strong, useful, and self-reliant through adventure and service, including backpacking and conservation work [hopefully Philmont this summer will only be the beginning of frequent excursions across the country to build trails and camp]

-Improve my skills in prose writing, poetry writing, singing, and instrumental music [ukulele and guitar in particular]

-Steel my character and intellect and judgment for the storms ahead

-Develop true and lifelong friendships, especially with siblings, with colleagues in higher causes, and with intellectual comrades

-Find my George Washington mentor figure to spend my life consulting and working with

-Meet, cultivate relationship with, and marry the love of my life- an equal, a friend, a partner, and a companion across life [and I hope to God that she’s Catholic, Republican, and loves politics and history, and loves adventure, like me]


So there’s my goals I want to be working on. Clearly there are many challenges along the way, and it’ll be hard work; if I attain even a third of these, I will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

I’ll keep you in the loop as I work on all this!



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