Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
The Power of Selflessness
May 23, 2021
“Richard, your dad can’t remember our names.” With those words from a relative at a family
reunion, the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease entered Richard Lui’s family, and his life began to change.
The broadcast journalist and news anchor had spent years building his career on CNN Worldwide,
NBC, and MSNBC, but he was willing to give it all up in order to help care for his father.
Thankfully, an alternate plan was worked out due to his boss’ “creative kindness.” And because of his experiences, Richard became more aware of the ideal of selflessness in his own past and the world around him. The result of his reflections and research is the new book “Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness,” and we discussed it recently on “Christopher Closeup.”
Though Richard didn’t know it at the time, the seeds of this book were planted by his parents when he was growing up in California. His father Stephen was a Presbyterian minister and social worker, while his mother worked as a teacher. She loved her job so much that she turned down promotions because she wanted to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get a better education and fulfill their potential. However, she took a break from teaching to raise her kids. As a result, the Luis didn’t earn enough money to fully support Richard and his siblings. He recalled, “We were on food stamps and, thanks to the welfare system, able to get by. I didn’t have heat in the house until [age] 15, and I’m the third oldest.”
Despite not having a lot materially speaking, Richard witnessed his parents helping others in whatever ways they could. He admits that developing his “selflessness muscles” didn’t happen automatically. It’s an ongoing process, the roots of which lay in the example of his mom and dad. That’s why when his father began displaying signs of Alzheimer’s, Richard and his siblings knew they would rally together to help him and their mom. But as a journalist, Richard traveled a lot. And when he wasn’t on the road, he was based in New York City, 3,000 miles away from his parents. As his father’s condition worsened, he knew he couldn’t maintain the status quo career-wise. He approached his boss at MSNBC, Yvette Miley, about his situation, but expected her to tell him they couldn’t accommodate him wanting to work fewer hours. “Broadcast journalists do not ask to be on the air less,” he told me.
To his surprise, however, Miley revealed that she herself was caring for her mother in California. She understood his situation and was willing to work around his schedule. For the past seven years, therefore, Richard has been on-air in New York two or three days a week, while commuting to California to help care for his father.
This wasn’t the first time that Richard had a boss who acted with an employee’s best interest at heart. When he was a student at UC Berkeley during the 1990s, he was hired for at a small manufacturing company run by a man named Mike Breslin. Things were going well until a national recession hit the business hard. Breslin informed his staff that they would have to take a 20 percent pay cut until finances improved. What Breslin didn’t reveal was that he was cutting his own salary to $0, so that he could keep his employees on the job. It is an example of selflessness that motivates Richard to this day.