Luke +

Don’t ever talk politics with family? Notsofast.
These cousins say disagreeing (OK sometimes agreeing)
on politics keeps family (and America) going strong.

You know that whole “don’t talk politics (and religion) with your family” thing? Maybe on the surface of it this is extremely sage advice (especially right about now), but what happens when We the People stop talking about things that matter most around America’s dinner tables (and everywhere else)?

What if there were a way to bypass the anger and attacks, and find a way to really connect with each other again on the questions that matter most, with the people who matter the most?

That’s what subversive cousins Thomas and Luke have done, with a little help from their beloved Grandpa Phillips, whose legacy of teaching to his posterity was simply this:  “Be Nice to Each Other, Be Kind to Each Other, Love Each Other.” 

Does that really have to be so hard, America?


But, of course, it is hard for our country these days around so many family tables – wracked, as we are with division, accusation and suspicion. The urgency of considering a different path, then, becomes even greater – as inspiration for the rest of us in imagining what it looks like to find a way back to each other.

That’s why you need to get to know Thomas and Luke!

Meet Thomas David Phillips IV

Phillips Cousin. Culturally Liberal. Half-White, Half-Cuban. Rooted native son of Ohio. High-Flying Young Professional in D.C. Proud Ohio State Buckeye. Thinks America is an Idea held by a Nation. Romantic, poetic young dandy. Political hero these days is Pete Buttiegig. Political hero who died is John Glenn. Advises his cousin on fashion.

Luke on Thomas. Thomas is a vibrant and gregarious person who knows how to get things done in D.C., and is a very worthy steward of the Phillips family’s Ohio roots!

Meet Luke Nathan Phillips

Phillips Cousin. Culturally Conservative. Half-White, Half-Filipino. Continent-Crossing Navy Brat. Job-Juggling Young Writer in D.C. Proud USC Trojan. Thinks America is a Nation holding an Idea. Romantic, poetic young dandy. Political hero these days is Jon Huntsman Jr. Political hero who died is George H.W. Bush. Still working on fashion.

Thomas on Luke: Luke is an incredibly philosophical individual. A student of history, he is a brilliant writer, and an ambitious analyst of our present days. They say we cannot choose our family, but despite our differences, I would always choose Luke.

More Description of the Treasonous Friendship.

Well you see, we met through our fathers, who happen to be brothers!

In all seriousness, we have known each other for a quarter-century- we were born in the same ‘cohort’ of Phillips cousins, and whenever Luke’s family visited Ohio we interacted. Thomas moved to D.C. after graduating college, while Luke’s family was living in the D.C. area; discovering through Facebook that we were both interested in and to some degree active in politics, we started meeting every few months, scheming, arguing, pontificating, and generally having excellent conversations (in which we determined that we are indeed quite different and yet quite similar in our political understandings.)

We both opposed Trump in the 2016 election, but have had different trajectories in our thinking to that conclusion and beyond. Thomas would probably have been a very happy Rockefeller Republican; Luke would probably have been a very happy Moynihan Democrat. Thomas is socially liberal and fiscally conservative; Luke is socially conservative and fiscally liberal. We have profound disagreements on cultural issues, especially relating to national identity: the legacy of the Civil War and Westward Expansion, the role of race and the nature of race in American public life, the proper role of immigration and how immigration should be managed, the definition of Patriotism, how cosmopolitan and ideological America is vs. how culturally rooted and national America is. We also have disagreements on economic and government issues, most of which remain far less interesting than our disagreements on culture.

But our disagreements on culture, we think, highlight something of the complexity and grandness of America — that it is BOTH accurately described as an idea AND accurately described as a nation, and that in some way, it is the CONVERSATION between these different conceptions that makes for the American experience in every age. Well, we, the Phillips cousins, who hope to serve our country, hope to bring that conversation far into the future.

Their Talk: “The Phillips Cousins in a Polarized America.”

From Confederate monuments, and Columbus Day, to differences over sexuality and family, you’re in for a treat!  Rather than just arguing different sides of an issue, we will be modeling a productive conversation involving one of us interrogating the other on an issue the other is mixed about.

Phillips Cousins Sneak Peak:

  • Luke interviews Thomas about his background.  Thomas interviews Luke about his background (leaves open possibility of payback if deserved).
  • Cousins mix it up on a seemingly intractable historical issue (role of certain presidents, is American history progressive or conservative, etc.) Arm wrestling might ensue.
  • Thomas and Luke have at it out on a cultural issue (i.e., politics/religion thing, political norms thing, interpretation of movies or songs thing). [Invoke G-pa Phillips as required.]
  • Cousins see if they can hold it together on an identity issue (i.e., race controversy, immigration controversy, poverty controversy, class controversy); yes this is really happening.
  • Taking on Recent Issue #478,792 that we refuse to find common ground on, the cousins attempt to show off with a “ProCon” (Progressive-Conservative) policy synthesis as they (wait for it) find common ground. [Heads explode.]
  • Luke blurbs for a bit on Depolarization Movement work. Thomas insists he keeps it short.
  • Cool peeps in the audience get a chance at them while Luke and Thomas remind the audience of Grandpa Phillips’ sage advice: ”Be Nice to Each Other, Be Kind to Each Other, Love Each Other.”
  • Cousins and new friends eat + talk, agree + disagree — remembering together that being a nation requires us to be a family.

The time-space continuum to consider: Luke lives in Stafford, Virginia, and Thomas lives in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC.

What the pair would need to come to your school: Travel and hotel and an honorarium of $500 apiece, negotiable depending on location! They would prefer to focus on Atlantic Seaboard/Midwest schools, especially – but are open to other places for sure!

Contact them.


Luke Phillips
Aspen Institute
Thomas Phillips
Congressional Affairs Specialist
learn more about the work they do agree on
Better Angels:
Let's Depolarize America

Better Angels is a national citizens movement to reduce political polarization in the United States. Learn more about Better Angels and consider hosting a Red Blue Workshop, Better Angels Debate or Skills Training.