"Look for Me There: Grieving My Father, Finding Myself" | Reviewed by Bill Schwab
Updated: Jul 3
Tim Russert, former moderator of NBC's “Meet the Press,” would instruct his son Luke to “Look for me there,” when they agreed on a pickup site at an airport, sports, or entertainment venue. Tim died suddenly of a heart attack on June 13th, 2008, a month after Luke graduated from Boston College. Luke and his mother, journalist Maureen Orth of “Vanity Fair”, were traveling in Europe when they received the shocking news.
Luke delivered the eulogy at his father’s funeral, where an NBC executive recognized his oratory skill. The executive was looking for a journalist who would appeal to young people and offered Luke a job. The grieving son accepted the position and built a successful career covering politics on the network; however, after eight years Luke questioned why he was trying to follow in his father's footsteps and quit his job undecided about what he would do in the future.
His immediate plan was to take 6-12 months traveling and unplug from all the pressure generated by covering politics during the 2016 presidential election. But that time of adventure and relaxation expanded to more than three years of global travel to some of the world's most remarkable destinations. By taking risks and trying new experiences, Luke began to emotionally grow and determine who he was, and how he was independent of his father.
“Look for Me There” chronicles the 68 places Tim visited on six continents and includes some of his impressions recorded in the 300,000-word journal he wrote along the way. He found the Vietnamese to be “kind people,” for example, and Easter Island “a small dot on the wide blue Pacific.” The chapters on Japan and Senegal are particularly expressive. Both nations are closely tied to U.S. history: Senegal to the slave trade and Japan to World War II and the atomic bomb. Russert ponders over these events, how millions of people were affected by them, and what implications they continue to have for all three nations.
Luke Russert’s final destination was the Holy Land where he poignantly inserted a Bible verse in honor of his father in the Wailing Wall: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4: 7).
Beyond the vivid descriptions of the stunning sites he visited, Russert succeeds in showing readers how his foreign journeys served his pursuit of an understanding of his unique purpose in life. The author is straightforward in that his travel and search for meaning were made possible because of his privileged life and the wealth he inherited from his dad. He candidly discusses how that silver-spoon life provided him the freedom to get drunk on foreign beaches, tell off third-world taxi drivers, and cheat on his girlfriend.
Russert is a 30-year-old looking for life’s meaning who is on his way but still struggling. “Look for Me There” offers encouragement to those suffering a great loss or uncertain about the direction of their life. Even though most readers will not have the where-with-all to travel the planet, Luke’s experience offers hope to those willing to risk assessing their grief, faith, ambition, and purpose.
About the Author: Luke Russert is an Emmy award-winning journalist who served as an NBC News correspondent from 2008 to 2016, primarily covering U.S. politics.