Luke Russert: Hero’s Quest

When Luke Russert lost his father, legendary journalist, Tim Russert, in 2008, the then 22-year-old girded himself against grief, eulogized him in front of presidents and politicos, and received condolences and handshakes with a rigid jaw. Months later, he took a once-in-a-lifetime offer to join NBC News.

Eight years into his tenure on Capitol Hill, then Speaker John Boehner pulled him aside and said, “You can’t just live in the political bubble your entire life; you’ve got to learn something else.”

Luke left NBC News for what began as a few months of travel to decompress, and found himself on an odyssey to discover the world, process his grief, and find himself.

On this week’s Friends & Neighbors, my sometimes Nantucket neighbor whose father appears in Mister Rogers & Me, discusses his New York Times Best Seller, Look For Me There, and the lessons he’s learned on his three-year, six-continent hero’s quest.

“We’re all trying to get to a place of enlightenment or fulfillment,” he says of what he discovered in his travels. “We’re just taking different paths to get there.”

“But society doesn’t really want you in that space because there’s discomfort in it. We try to paper over that suffering. And people are very closed off in their own little fortresses.”

It was in Angkor Wat with a pair of Cambodian monks that Luke realized that the only way through his grief was to embrace it.

“When people hear ‘Life is suffering’ they say, ‘I’m not suffering every single day!’ But that’s not what it means,” he says.

“When you wake up in the morning, there might be self doubt, or the stresses of the day or someone who you love might be mad at you,” he explains. “This is a form of suffering.”

“And when you learn to embrace that it’s going to be omnipresent, that you’re never going to get to where everything is great all the time, then it opens up your mind to be able to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to take things in stride and I’m going to be peaceful and comfortable in uncertainty.”

“And once you start doing that,” he says, “Things become a lot clearer.”

For more from Luke on his father, travels and transformation, including his Mister Rogers & Me story and the power of Bruce Springsteen, listen to the Friends & Neighbors podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you find podcasts.

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