Recent grad, longtime Kenan student earns U.S. Army officer commission

Richard Phillips displays a plaque awarded to him following his commissioning ceremony with Duke’s AROTC program. It was presented to him by Maj. Rachelle Macon, professor of military science, left, and his father, Don.

In his four years at Duke, Richard Phillips found a love for issues of justice and compassion, deepened by his experiences at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Through coursework as part of receiving an Ethics Certificate, traveling to the Arizona/Mexico border for the Institute’s 2016 Alternative Spring Break and interacting with Kenan’s faculty and staff as a research assistant, Phillips gained experience that fed a commitment to a calling of service. That work recently culminated for Phillips when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army after completing Duke’s AROTC program.

“I’m so glad that Kenan and Duke gave me the desire to see perspective in the world and understand people and their truth,” said Phillips, who graduated this summer. “When you’re in the Army, you’re fighting evil, but you can’t paint the other people you might face with easy-to-understand labels. There are people in the world with dreams the same as me, and that is a crucial and harrowing reality to come to terms with.”

Phillips said his involvement in ethics-focused classes fed his interest in eclectic learning and personal experiences that included studying international law, migration and the history of oppression in the United States. It all connected to his core beliefs as a Christian and someone who sees value in trying to understand the stories and ideas of individuals in order to ultimately understand what is right and wrong for all people.

Following research this fall in which he’ll study aspects of migration and displacement in Texas, Phillips plans to attend law school with the end goal of entering into his military service as an Army lawyer.

Learn more about Richard and his story in this Profiles in Purpose.