UCLA Common Book 2012-2013: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

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Wes Moore - Bio

From The Other Wes Moore website:

Wes Moore was born in 1978 and was three years old when his father, a respected radio and tele­vi­sion host, died in front of him. His mother, hop­ing for a bet­ter future for her fam­ily, made great sac­ri­fices to send Wes and his sis­ters to pri­vate school. Caught between two worlds—the afflu­ence of his class­mates and the strug­gles of his neighbors—Wes began to act out, suc­cumb­ing to bad grades, sus­pen­sions, and delin­quen­cies. Des­per­ate to reverse his behav­ior, his mother sent him to mil­i­tary school in Penn­syl­va­nia. After try­ing to escape five times, Wes finally decided to stop rail­ing against the sys­tem and become account­able for his actions. By grad­u­a­tion six years later, Moore was com­pany com­man­der over­see­ing 125 cadets.


On Decem­ber 11, 2000, The Bal­ti­more Sun ran an arti­cle about how Wes, despite his trou­bled child­hood, had just received The Rhodes Schol­ar­ship. At the same time, The Sun was run­ning sto­ries —even­tu­ally more than 100 in all—about four African-American men who were arrested for the mur­der of an off-duty Bal­ti­more police offi­cer dur­ing an armed rob­bery. One of the men con­victed was just two years older than Wes, lived in the same neigh­bor­hood, and in an uncanny turn, was also named Wes Moore.


Wes won­dered how two young men from the same city, who were around the same age, and even shared a name, could arrive at two com­pletely dif­fer­ent des­tinies. The jux­ta­po­si­tion between their lives, and the ques­tions it raised about account­abil­ity, chance, fate and fam­ily, had a pro­found impact on Wes. He decided to write to the other Wes Moore, and much to his sur­prise, a month later he received a let­ter back. He vis­ited the other Wes in prison over a dozen times, spoke with his fam­ily and friends, and dis­cov­ered star­tling par­al­lels between their lives: both had dif­fi­cult child­hoods, they were both father­less, were hav­ing trou­ble in the class­room; they’d hung out on sim­i­lar cor­ners with sim­i­lar crews, and had run into trou­ble with the police. Yet at each stage of their lives, at sim­i­lar moments of deci­sion, they would head down dif­fer­ent paths towards aston­ish­ingly diver­gent des­tinies. Wes real­ized in their two sto­ries was a much larger tale about the con­se­quences of per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity and the imper­a­tive­ness of edu­ca­tion and com­mu­nity for a gen­er­a­tion of boys search­ing for their way.


Seek­ing to help other young peo­ple to redi­rect their lives, Wes is com­mit­ted to being a pos­i­tive influ­ence and help­ing kids find the sup­port they need to enact change. Point­ing out that a high school stu­dent drops out every nine sec­onds, Wes says that pub­lic servants—the teach­ers, men­tors and vol­un­teers who work with our youth—are as imper­a­tive to our national stand­ing and sur­vival as are our armed forces. “Pub­lic ser­vice does not have to be an occu­pa­tion,” he says, “but it must be a way of life.”


Moore lives with his wife Dawn in New Jersey.

For more information about Wes Moore, visit his website.

PBS Interview

Click here to see a PBS Newshour interview with Wes Moore.

Judy Woodruff talks to Baltimore native Wes Moore about his new book, The Other Wes Moore, which explores the stories of two inner-city young men who share the same name, but lead very different lives. but lead very different lives.