It’s Not Just About You

Wes Moore Urges the Audience to See the Potential in Others

 “Look beyond yourselves and fight for others – to make humanity better.”

That was the challenge Wes Moore issued to an engaged crowd of more than 500.

As speaker for the 2013 Social Justice Book and Lecture Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Moore talked about his experiences and his book, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.”

On the surface, the book appears to be only about two young men, their environment and the choices they made.

Moore shared his name with the other young man, who was about his same age and lived in the same neighborhood. They appeared to be headed in the same destructive direction. But because of circumstances – family intervention, friends’ support and contacts’ aid – their lives took different paths, forever changing their futures.

One is a Rhodes Scholar and author. The other is in prison for murder, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

“No one knew who one Wes Moore was, so they certainly didn’t know who the other one was,” Moore said. “The decision by the publishers to name the book ‘The Other Wes Moore’ – in spite of my protests – was best, and ‘The Other’ is the best part of the title.”

When writing the book, Moore’s goal was to take people on a journey into the lives of these young boys, to see them as innocent children. That way, they could begin to feel and see that there is no easy answer to “What went wrong?” or “How do we fix the ‘other’ one?” These two could be any child, anywhere in America.

“Show compassion to those who on the surface deserve none,” Moore dared listeners. “Potential is universal. Opportunity is not.”

Moore said he learned an important lesson from his mom shortly after she sent him to the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pa. After running away five times in his first four days, he was allowed a five-minute phone call to anyone. He called his mom.

“I begged her to pick me up and take me home, promised to do anything she wanted and go to school most of the time,” Moore said. “His mom told him ‘It’s not all about you.’ ”

He learned that others matter. His mom, who was working several jobs to send him to the academy. His grandparents, who used their savings to help keep him there. And the friends and relatives, who shared their money for his chance at a brighter future.

Others matter. Moore said that there are a few additional things that he knows matter:

“Education matters, expectations matter and how we think about our lives and the lives of others matters.”

When the author asked the “other” Wes Moore if he thought expectations mattered, his answer was “We are a product of others’ expectations of us.”

“Someone had bigger goals for you than you had for yourself,” said Moore. “Education taught me what it meant to be free. Being educated means being free and opening the world to others – not just yourself.”

Through his books, his lectures and his organization, STAND! (Students Taking a New Direction), which works with middle school-aged children who are in the Baltimore juvenile justice system, Moore himself accepted the challenge that he issued:

He is helping to make humanity better – a child at a time.


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