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Skidmore College

Author of summer read gives students the inside story

September 18, 2013

Wes Moore, author of the New York Times bestseller The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, visited the Skidmore campus on Sept. 16 at the invitation of the First-Year Experience to help students delve into his motivation for writing the book, and to urge them to find a way to make difference. Moore’s book was the assigned summer reading for the incoming students, the Class of 2017.

“This is the story of two boys living in Baltimore with similar histories and an identical name,” writes Moore in the book’s introduction. “One of us is free and has experienced things that he never even knew to dream about as a kid. The other will spend every day until death behind bars for an armed robbery that left a police officer and father of five dead. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”

Wes Moore at the Tang
Wes Moore with students at the Tang Museum
show Classless Society. (all photos Eric Jenks)

And the author’s personal story is indeed uplifting. Raised by a widowed mother, he overcame early academic and behavioral struggles to graduate from Valley Forge Military Academy in 1998 and then from Johns Hopkins University in 2001with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. Following graduation, he studied international affairs at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and then became a paratrooper and captain in the U.S. Army, serving a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan. Moore subsequently served as a White House fellow to Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice. He is the founder of the organization STAND!, which works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system.

While on campus Moore met with some 35 students from three first-year Scribner Seminars in an afternoon session at the Tang Museum and gave an evening talk to a full house in the Arthur Zankel Music Center. In both of his presentations, each followed by an open question-and-answer session, he covered a range of issues pertaining to his book—the state of education in the U.S., the effects of poverty, the ethics of the criminal justice system, class dynamics and social mobility, and the impact of our own expectations and those that others have for us. Above all, Moore emphasized the lasting effect that our decisions—sometimes a single decision—can have in our lives and the lives of others.

“The question that will stay with you is what will you do to make humanity better,” said Moore to the audience in Zankel. “You can make massive changes in the world. Who will you fight for? Who will you stand up for?”

Wes Moore Tang 2

He concluded his talk by emphasizing the power of a college education in effecting change. “You guys are sitting behind the wheel of a high-performance car. Take if for a spin; push it to the limit.”

“It was particularly exciting for Moore to meet with students in the recently mounted Classless Society exhibition at the Tang, since he expressed a strong desire for his book to spark larger conversations about structural and social inequities in the U.S.,” said Janet Casey, director of the First-Year Experience and professor of English. “The students were very engaged by that conversation as well as by his evening lecture.”

Added Casey, “His generosity with students was remarkable, as he remained in Zankel until well after 11 p.m. to chat and sign books for the many who waited in line for the opportunity. We were very fortunate to secure such a riveting speaker for the first-year class.”

Moore’s visit was sponsored by the First-Year Experience, James and Susan Towne, and the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery.

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