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Illustrations: Reina Takahashi

Our conversations could be frustrating, but they also gave me hope. Was I a fool to think we were getting somewhere?

Three days after the 2016 election, I posted an invitation on Facebook. I was looking for Donald Trump voters who wanted to come over for dinner at my house, which is just a short walk from the White House in Washington, D.C. I wanted to understand why over 62 million people voted for someone who I thought was wholly unqualified for the job and entirely lacked the moral character befitting the office. I wanted to ask my own questions without the filter of media or political punditry.

No one accepted my dinner invitation at first. Even though only 4% of…


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Looking For America

How this half Asian kid learned how to fit in and still be herself

“She’s not like other people.” That’s how a friend’s dad recently described me and he meant it as a compliment and I took it that way. I don’t want to be like everyone else. That hasn’t always been true, though. Growing up as the only Asian-looking kid, apart from my little brother, in a small Southern city, I desperately wanted to be like the other people I saw around me. I wanted to feel like I belonged.

Our hometown was clearly divided between black and white people. I looked neither black nor white, so I belonged in neither group. My…


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Gratuitous photo of baby me all dressed up and nowhere to go.

How this extrovert adapted to life in a pandemic

“The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,” Gillian Sandstrom, a social psychologist at the University of Essex, told me. People on the peripheries of our lives introduce us to new ideas, new information, new opportunities, and other new people. …


Looking For America

Why I ugly cried anticipating the end of the Muslim Ban

A French television crew stopped by my home last week to document reactions of DC residents who would have normally gone to the National Mall to watch the inaugural proceedings. I remember watching the first Obama inauguration in the bitter cold from somewhere around the Washington Monument. We were so far away from the Capitol steps that day and watching on a jumbotron that we might as well have stayed home and watched on television. The election of a black man was historic, of course, and it felt important to witness the moment in person, even from afar. This…


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I made 1,200 sandwiches!

My job for most of the day was to put two slices of cheddar cheese on one half of a ciabatta roll after the guy ahead of me slathered it with a basil aioli sauce. It was quite meditative! Others were assigned to follow me with six slices of roast beef, a few sun-dried tomatoes, finished with a handful of arugula. When more volunteers came, I switched over to wrapping the freshly made sandwiches before they were delivered to national guardsman protecting our Capitol from rioters.

Normally, when I hear about the work of World Central Kitchen, they’re out feeding…


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I met Katja Tukainen a decade ago when I went on an art expedition to Finland as a guest of the Finnish Embassy. We spent a delightful afternoon in her studio talking about life, art, and everything. She was generous and unpretentious and I loved the esthetic of her work, an explosion of pink whimsy that masked a sharp social commentary underneath. Later that week, I went gallery hopping and discovered her solo show at one of the most important galleries in Helsinki, Galerie Forsblom. Unbeknownst to me, Katja was kind of a big deal in Finland.


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Image by Olga Shmaidenko for @wow.woman.official on IG

Plus I was featured as a Wow! Woman

I went to Alaska this summer to spread my dad’s ashes after he died two years ago. I hadn’t been able to do it sooner because I’d been traveling so much for work the year after he passed and the pandemic grounded me the year after that. Then, in a frenzy of quarantine cleaning, I found a forgotten letter he’d sent to me in 2005 with a key to a bank safe deposit box in Oregon taped to the back. I had no idea what was in the box and I had no recollection of him having sent me the…


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Like Stacey Abrams, I was determined.

The first person I saw when I arrived before dawn at the Central United Methodist church in Atlanta was a big muscle-y guy with a gun holstered to his hip. What had I gotten myself into when I volunteered to be a poll observer for the Georgia Senate runoff race? I showed the polling place manager my credentials and then counted the number of voting machines and poll workers, reviewed handicap accessibility and signage, and checked off the rest of the task list that I had been given to ensure a smooth and easy voting process in the run-off election.


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Nothing changed on New Year’s Day after we smashed junky guitars that my friend and artist Bud modified to represent 2020. Covid claimed another 2,000 lives. Mitch McConnell inexplicably called $2,000 stimulus checks “socialism for the rich” and torpedoed any effort to get money into the pockets of people who really need it. Members of Congress in both houses persisted in undermining democracy with futile, performative efforts to reverse the results of an election for which no one seems able to present evidence of significant fraud.

The first time I smashed a guitar was in 2013, also thanks to Bud…


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Looking For America

Speaking truth to power and fighting for what you believe

I met Patty Rhule, VP of Content Innovation at the Freedom Forum, outside an elementary school in Lancaster, PA, on election day when we were helping to protect one of our most sacred rights in a democracy: the right to vote. Turns out, Patty was also an advocate for another one of my favorite rights, the First Amendment right to free speech. …

Philippa Hughes

Creating space for conversations to transform society. Exploring what it means to be American. Recovering lawyer, public speaker, art fanatic philippahughes.com

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