PM1968, April 20, 2010
I had never heard of Wes Moore before I was lucky enough to be in the audience at the Oprah Winfrey Show when he was a guest (episode air date 04/27/10). As a parting gift, we received an advance copy of The Other Wes Moore. In the few minutes that our Wes Moore was on stage, I was immediately struck by his charisma, enthusiasm for life and belief in a brighter future for others who begin life as he did. I read the book from cover-to-cover the moment I returned home.
As I read the book I was searching for the thought processes that made this Wes Moore, successful and upwardly mobile in life and the other Wes, headed for defeat and failure. I wanted to know what this Wes Moore was made of – whether innately there or implanted and nurtured by others. The book sheds light on this.
Our Wes Moore comments, “Young boys are more likely to believe in themselves if they know that there’s someone, somewhere, who shares that belief. To carry the burden of belief alone is too much for most young shoulders.” At crucial junctures when our Wes was unable to carry the burden, his mother, friends, grandparents and mentors helped shoulder it with him but he remained part of the mix.
By contrast, from prison, the other Wes Moore comments, “We take other’s expectations of us and make them our own. The expectations that others place on us help us form our expectations of ourselves. We will do what others expect of us. If they expect us to graduate, we will graduate. If they expect us to get a job, we will get a job. If they expect us to go to jail, then that’s where we will end up too. At some point you lose control.” To that, our Wes Moore, adds, “True, but it’s easy to lose control when you were never looking for it in the first place.”
Both Wes Moore’s started out with the odds stacked against them and innately, I think both wanted to succeed but there finally came a time when they each chose a different path for themselves. At a later point in his life when our Wes is firmly on the right path, he visits South Africa and speaks with a woman who survived apartheid. She states, “The common bond of humanity and decency that we share is stronger than any conflict, any adversity, and challenge. Fighting for your convictions is important but finding peace is paramount. Knowing when to fight and when to seek peace is wisdom.”
Also in South Africa, Wes meets a boy who is days away from going through the Xhosa adult circumcision ritual and when Wes asks if the boy is scared of the pain and the process, the boy replies, “It’s not the process you should focus on; it’s the joy you will feel after you go through the process.”
That sums up the meaning of this book for me. Life is a process and the end result is the prize. Our Wes Moore is deserving of joy. He has earned it and he continues to pay it forward in his life.
I am now a fan of Wes Moore. I have no doubt that his name will become a household when the Oprah show airs and his book hits newsstands. Pick up several copies, as I have, to give as gifts to those looking for inspiration – a local Boys and Girls Club or other families-helping-families type organization would benefit greatly from this book.
Ultimately, I think you are left with the realization that we are responsible for ourselves and for each other. These are not mutually exclusive actions. Wes benefitted from a loving, self-sacrificing family but he kept himself as part of the equation. The other Wes removed himself at some point. Keep your eyes on this rising star!