Wes Moore: The Journey of a Generation & How to Transform Our Youth


Wes-Moore (5)Wes Moore is a youth advo­cate, Army com­bat vet­eran, promis­ing busi­ness leader, most known for his book entitled The Other Wes Moore and spearheading the Amer­i­can strate­gic sup­port plan for the Afghan Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Pro­gram that unites for­mer insur­gents with the new Afghan Gov­ern­ment.

He is rec­og­nized as an author­ity on the rise and ram­i­fi­ca­tions of rad­i­cal Islamism in the West­ern Hemi­sphere. When he was a White House Fel­low from 2006–2007, he served as a Spe­cial Assis­tant to Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice.  In other words, a man who is doing something big, bold and electric with his life and my list of accolades has barely touched the surface.

Wes is pas­sion­ate about sup­port­ing U.S. vet­er­ans and exam­in­ing the roles edu­ca­tion, men­tor­ing and pub­lic ser­vice play in the lives of Amer­i­can youth. This passion came from his own childhood, where he didn’t believe he would have made it if it weren’t for his mother believing in him and making sacrifices so he could be where he is today.

He had people around him willing to say that this kid isn’t perfect and that he was worth fighting for. He emphasized this message in a recent talk I heard him give at the Idea Festival: Kids need to know that they’re worth fighting for and someone is there standing by them to prove it.

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Wes shared his journey and what led to him writing the book: The Other Wes Moore. The history and how it plays out: two kids with the same name, liv­ing in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, dec­o­rated com­bat vet­eran, White House Fel­low, and busi­ness leader. The other is serv­ing a life sentence in prison for felony mur­der, a story of two boys and the jour­ney of a generation.

Here’s how the story came to light:

In Decem­ber 2000, the Bal­ti­more Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local stu­dent who had just received a Rhodes Schol­ar­ship. The same paper also ran a series of arti­cles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police offi­cer in a spec­tac­u­larly botched armed rob­bery. The police were still hunt­ing for two of the sus­pects who had gone on the lam, a pair of broth­ers. One was named Wes Moore.

Wes just couldn’t shake off the unset­tling coin­ci­dence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same news­pa­per. After fol­low­ing the story of the rob­bery, the man­hunt, and the trial to its con­clu­sion, he wrote a let­ter to the other Wes, now a con­victed mur­derer serv­ing a life sen­tence with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of parole. His let­ter ten­ta­tively asked the ques­tions that had been haunt­ing him: Who are you? How did this happen?

That let­ter led to a cor­re­spon­dence and rela­tion­ship that has lasted for sev­eral years. Over dozens of let­ters and prison vis­its, Wes dis­cov­ered that the other Wes had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in sim­i­lar neigh­bor­hoods and had dif­fi­cult child­hoods, both were father­less; they’d hung out on sim­i­lar cor­ners with sim­i­lar crews, and both had run into trou­ble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across sim­i­lar moments of deci­sion, yet their choices and the peo­ple in their lives would lead them to aston­ish­ingly dif­fer­ent destinies.

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If your skin isn’t tingling after reading that, then re-read it a bit more slowly and pause after each paragraph.

He was in Kentucky not only to inspired the Idea Festival attendees, but everyone he came into contact with. Moore references a moving memory he had while he was in the army. A sergeant left parting words with his crew, which was: when it’s time for you to leave this planet, make sure that it mattered that you were ever here. What did you do to make humanity better and how did you used your time.

Hear hear Moore’s sergeant who is clearly no longer with us, but his words live on.

What matters in life he asked the crowd? “Education, parenting and service matters,” he responded before anyone else. “BUT,” he adds, “expectations matter even more. We’re products not of our environments but of our expectations.” If Tony Robbins and Wes Moore haven’t met, they should since they’re in the same camp of thinking and something I subscribe to whole heartedly as well. As Tony so often says, “change your expectations, change your life.

Wes Moore was an inspiration and his words not only resonate but sit me days later as I’m sure they will years later. All it takes for people to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Isn’t that the truth?

This is also the truth: don’t let where I am ever fool you where I’ve been AND don’t let wherever I am now fool you about where I’m going.

I really love this. As long as our thoughts and our actions can be aligned with the above statement, there’s no telling what we can achieve.

I often think back to my own childhood and who inspired me most. Sure, I had family members and teachers make a huge difference like we all did, but so often, I hear something someone told me I barely knew — in a hallway, on a sidewalk, on a mountain, in an elevator, on a bus — in so many random places, that have changed the way I think about the world and had an impact on my decision making along the way.

Believing in kids and taking the time to be present with who comes into your path along the way can change lives. As long as kids know someone is willing to fight for where they’re willing to go and stand by them in the process, they have a chance to thrive. It could be the difference between success or death.

Wes adds insight that my grandfather also shared with me growing up. “Take the 5 second pause on all decisions. Whenever we make flash quick decisions, that’s when we get into trouble.” I’d modify that timeframe to 5 minute pause, but you get the idea. This obviously doesn’t just apply to kids.

Ask yourself: what’s the best case scenario about what I’m about to do and what is the worst case scenario about what I’m about to do? Take the pause and understand that there are people fighting for you and making sacrificing for you and that can change the entire direction of where you’re going.

He said he probably wouldn’t have written the book if it wasn’t for the other Wes. “My story isn’t interesting unless you understand my story in context,” he says in response to the question. On the surface, they can look at these two people’s lives and what they have in common except for a name.

A split decision can either close or open doors and many times we don’t even realize how thin that line can be. “That’s why,” says Wes, “its important to add a bit of compassion to how we look at the world.”

That brings up the question of how do we all think about second chances? There’s not one person in the world who hasn’t needed a second chance in our lives, is there? And, it’s important to remember that there’s a very thin line between second chances and last chances.

Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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