It’s hard to believe that our Walk of Courage Award Gala is only three weeks away. For 75 years, LIRS, through service partners and Lutheran congregations, has walked with over 500,000 migrants and refugees. This is something to celebrate! With a night of awards, ethnic food, music, and dance, we will honor those who have made the courageous journey from violence to safety, and those who have welcomed them in their new homes. It’s not too late to get your tickets- click here to purchase them before stock runs out!
Rich Cho will be the recipient of the Walk of Courage Award. A former refugee from Burma, he is the General Manager of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, the first Asian American to hold that title. Here the story of how Rich and his family rebuilt their lives in the United States:
Rich and his family escaped persecution in Burma in 1968 when he was three years old.
Both of Rich’s parents went to college here in the United States. His mother attended Indiana University and his father went to Kalamazoo College. Once their studies were completed, they returned to Burma to fulfill the required five years of work with the government to pay for their education.
At a time when the military was taking over, many families were disappearing at night or were jailed for their political beliefs. Rich’s father was the editor of a newspaper. They lived with the constant fear that someone would take him away, never to be seen again.
When an opportunity opened up to come to the United States, they jumped at the chance. Rich’s mother reached out to the teacher she lived with while she attend college. The teacher spoke to her church and they ended up sponsoring the Cho family.
When they left Burma, the government only allowed them to take $200 and a small suitcase of clothes. “If it wasn’t for the church in Indiana and my friend, we wouldn’t have been able to start,” shares Rich’s mother.
The congregation helped them with their transportation to the United States, found housing, loaned them a car, provided pots and pans for their kitchen, as well as clothes for the children. They even helped Rich’s mother find a teaching job.
Life was not easy when they arrived. Simple things like operating the oven were a mystery for Rich’s mother. She also was taking care of five small children without the support of her extended family. Despite the hardships, they were very grateful for the support they received and the lack of fear in their lives now.
After several years, the Cho family moved to Federal Way, WA, where his father worked the night shift at 7-Eleven. His parents appreciated the good education that all of their children received here in the United States.
Rich attended Washington State University and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He worked at Boeing from 1990-1995. In 1995, Rich was hired as an intern for the Seattle SuperSonics while he worked on his law degree at Pepperdine University School of Law. He graduated from law school in 1997 and was hired by the SuperSonics as director of basketball affairs.
In 2000, Rich was promoted to assistant general manager. It was in 2004 when Rich took his first trip back to Burma.
In 2008, when the team left Seattle, he moved to Oklahoma City with them. In 2010, Rich was hired as the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers — the first Asian American general manager in the NBA. In June 2011, he became the general manager of the Charlotte Hornets.
Last August, Rich returned once again to Burma with the NBA and the State Department to conduct basketball clinics throughout the country.
Rich mentors Asian American law students and has been active with Asian American law student associations. He is an advisor to the Board of Directors of the USA Myanmar Chamber of Commerce.
We are thrilled to have Rich at our Walk of Courage Award Gala. As the first Asian American General Manager in the NBA, he has broken barriers and showed the strength of new Americans. As a mentor, Rich has displayed the values of LIRS, walking alongside immigrants and helping them thrive in the United States. To buy tickets to the Gala and show your support for new Americans, click here.
This story is republished from our newsletter, Rebuilding Hope. To sign up for the newsletter and keep up to date with LIRS, click here.