Wes Moore opens Fall Assembly Series
Wes Moore, author of the Freshman Reading Program Book, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” spoke to students and faculty in College Hall Tuesday.
His book narrates the lives of two men, both named Wes Moore. One, the author, grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, U.S. Army veteran and avid voice for education. The other became a drug dealer and a convicted murderer serving a life sentence.
Their fates intersected when Moore received a call from his mother about wanted signs with his name she saw posted in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun ran two articles; one addressed Moore, a local who had received prestigious Rhodes scholarship and would study in England, while the other reported an armed jewelry store robbery with four men, one of them named Wes Moore.
Despite differences in their adult lives and choices, both men were raised in similar circumstances, living in similar Baltimore neighborhoods, coping with absent fathers and struggling academically. As the author emphasized, there is little that separates people from choosing one life instead of another, like small decisions or a single resource.
Throughout his speech, Moore emphasized two points: the importance of a collegiate experience and the importance of the influences, or lack thereof, which have crafted students into who they are today.
He said that college is not about the diploma on the wall but rather learning about oneself in the context of others.
“Part of the joy of the collegiate experience…was how important [it is] to understand my life in a larger scene of people… And that was the larger motivation. To make sure this experience was about how you are going to make your mark as citizens of this country, of this larger global community,” Moore said.
Moore went on to discuss the title of his book. For many reasons, he had objected to it. However, his publishers explained to him an important point he had missed: there were others on the cusp of living dramatically different lives, just like the man who shares his name.
“There are Wes Moores that exist [in] every one of our communities, every one of our schools, and everyone of our homes…kids who were living one decision away, from going in one direction from going in a completely different direction,” Moore said.
Though these people may not be known or acknowledged, Moore said, their destinies still matter. Moore said he did not understand that until a phone call with his mother after running away from military school several times. Although Moore pleaded to return, his mother refused. She insisted that too many people had encouraged him and made sacrifices for him to be there.
“For the first time in my life, I was actually forced to think about my life in a context that I had never thought about before,” Moore said.
Moore remained in military school for his high school years, attended its junior college, graduated from Johns Hopkins University and won a Rhodes scholarship.
To conclude his speech, Moore reminded the students of the significance of attending Washington University.
“And don’t simply just say to get an education. Why are you here? Who helped put you here? And what do you expect from this experience? It cannot simply be about you,” he said.
Moore said that a student’s move to the University is more than just a change of environment but should change one’s way of thinking. This change occurs as a student is surrounded by people who push him to see his potential and to see life in a larger context, full of unexplored possibilities.
Many students said they were impressed with Moore’s speech.
“He was really clear about the message of his book and how it’s not a story of giving excuses or a story of redemption. It’s just the facts and looking at what our society does to young men and young women in these particular situations, and personal decisions are a part of it, but it’s so much bigger than that,” freshman Emily Alves said.
Upperclassmen in attendance also noted enjoying the event.
“I really liked it,” junior Damion Talcott said. “I kind of expected him to say what he was going to. He almost presents himself identically as how he presented himself in the book. It really made you evaluate yourself about who got you here and not there and put everything into perspective.”