Author Wes Moore shares life story

By Chelbi Mims
November 15, 2010

The decisions we make and the people we choose to have in our lives, more than the circumstances of our birth, shape who we are. That was the theme author Wes Moore brought home to the Cabrini Day audience in his powerful autobiography, “The Other Wes Moore.”

Moore gave his presentation to hundreds of attentive members of the college community on Tuesday, Nov. 9, in Grace Hall Atrium.

“The Other Wes Moore” tells the captivating story of the parallels and differences of two men growing up in the same place, same time and with the same name. The book was the required summer reading for all incoming freshmen.  Many upperclassmen, faculty and alumni also came out to hear this author.

“The book was extremely inspiring. It was a way to help people understand the lives of inner-city kids, but the speech was an even better way to understand. He gave a direct call to action and incorporated comedy as well,” Tara Millamena, freshman communication major, said.

Charlie Spencer, Cabrini’s director of transfer students, introduced Moore to the audience. Spencer attended Valley Forge Military Academy with Moore. Before giving the stage to Moore, Spencer explained his gratitude and memories of their friendship.  “Without Wes’s guidance I wouldn’t be the man I am today,” Spencer said.

“I grew up in an inner city and having someone who grew up in the same atmosphere as I and become such a powerful man makes me strive even harder for my dreams,” Jaiquann Beckham, sophomore education major, said.

Moore began his speech to the large crowd by thanking them for letting him be in their presence and how the Main Line area forced the person that he is, and gave his mother the support she needed.

At age 3, young Moore witnessed his father tragically die of a complicated illness.

“My father’s body was literally suffocating itself,” Moore said.

This abrupt and heartbreaking experience left Moore with anger and resentment, leading to his academic probation and trouble with the law.  Over time as a newly single parent, Moore’s mother realized things needed to change dramatically with her troubled son.

Moore shared how his mother repeatedly threatened his punishment by saying “keep it up, Wes. You’re going to military school.”  To Moore’s surprise, at age 12 and after numerous warnings, he was packed and headed to Valley Forge Military Academy.

“I knew sirens, lights and loud noises out on the street.  I didn’t know this, but this was supposed to be my new home,” Moore said.

Moore explained his first days at the school and the torture he experienced as a know-it-all adolescent.

“I knew nothing.  All I knew was that it was early, five in the morning, and they were loud,” Moore said.

Moore proceeded to tell the audience of his transformation at the military school.

“I shockingly excelled. I finished high school and college at Valley Forge and then transferred to Johns Hopkins University,” Moore said.

In his compelling baritone voice, Moore explained that on the same day the Baltimore Sun covered a story on him becoming a Rhodes scholar, they also reported a story of a jewelry store robbery. The 12-day manhunt involving four men, who took $400,000 in jewelry and shot a police officer to death, would end up being the story that would lead Moore onto the best seller list and a changed man.

“I read and learned about the case.  I knew that we had more in common than just our name,” Moore said.

One of the men caught in the robbery was coincidentally named Wes Moore also.  Originating from the same place, approximately the same age and a history involving the same complicated past, left Moore wanting to learn about this man, who was now to live in prison.

“While I headed over to England, he was heading to prison without parole,” Moore said.

Moore’s first intentions were to learn more about the other Wes Moore.  He never thought about writing a book until he became simply captivated by the choices and paths they both took.

“One letter turned into a dozen.  Letters turned into countless visits,” Moore said. “I have known him and his family for six years.”

Students throughout campus held mixed opinions of the book and Moore’s presentation.

“I thought ‘The Other Wes Moore’ was an amazing book.  It gave me an insight that we need to make wise decisions while we are young, learn from our mistakes and not continue to be repetitive in the actions that have led to bad things,” Leithie Faison, freshman undecided major, said.

Bill Uditsky, sophomore accounting major, added diversity to the popular opinion.

“I feel that Wes Moore is profiting off the misfortunes of the other Wes Moore. He is a free man while the other Wes Moore is spending life in prison,” Uditsky said. “In regards to this fact, the least Wes Moore can do is share the profit with the other Wes Moore and his family if he is not already doing so.”

In a matter-of-fact and simple ending, Moore concluded his speech.

“This book is a call to action. It’s not about two kids,” Moore said. “It’s about all of us realizing how little actually separates us.”

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Chelbi Mims

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