The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore, tells the journey of two men named Wes Moore who grew up in similar Baltimore neighborhoods, both having to deal with tough fatherless childhoods.
While one Wes Moore became a prominent Rhodes Scholar, author and businessman, the other is sentenced to life in prison. Both these men being recognized in the Baltimore Sun on the same day, one being a suspect in a butchered armed robbery and the other receiving a Rhodes scholarship, can be considered perplexing.
Author Wes Moore becomes fascinated, yet haunted, by this other Wes Moore who’s serving a life sentence in prison.
He soon starts sending letters to the other Wes Moore and comes to learn how more alike they were than first anticipated.
On Nov. 7, 2013, a common book discussion panel was held in the dining commons on The Other Wes Moore. The panelist included Joshua Potter, communications/drama assistant professor, John Lucas, business and social science instructor, Tom McCollow, math instructor, and student Ronda Williams.
These individuals discussed the question of how the book influenced them.
What scene or message did you feel was the most important in the book, and how did it affect you personally or professionally?
Joshua Potter: In the chapter called ‘Marking Territory,’ after Wes gets arrested, he makes this statement that I found not only captures the moral of what’s happening in the story but also crystalizes what’s initially important. He had said that the situation had soured him, and at that moment he had acknowledged what he’d done was his fault. For me, not only does this speak to Wes, but what it illuminates for me is that a lot of the choices we make in life are not true choices, where basically we get thrown into situations in which we have no control over.
John Lucas: I’ve been ridiculously lucky to live my life, having all kinds of support from people encouraging me to make good decisions and not having to make the sort of the tough trade-offs having to go to work and school. Reading this book I think does a really good job of showing how the choices that we don’t make puts our choices in a vacuum. Some people have lots of support for making good choices, and some people have lots of pressure on them that pushes them in the direction of most likely making a bad choice. Some of us have a lot less support making the right decisions, and it’s not equally distributed throughout our society.
Ronda Williams: For me, there is a part talking about the other Wes’s mother, Mary Moore, where she receives a letter that she would no longer be receiving financial aid anymore. To make a long story short, she basically gave up. She found herself, to me, working a dead-end job and not really the extra fight into pursuing her education just because she was turned down for financial aid. How I related with it is I basically lived that life. At the time I was 19, so I worked at Clare’s, and worked my way up in that company. I was told that due to the fact that I wanted to go to school, it wasn’t going to work. My former manager and district manager weren’t giving me time to work and go to school. So what did I do? I stopped going to school. How I relate with Mary is that I was told I wouldn’t receive financial aid to pursue school, I couldn’t work and attend school, so I gave up because I can’t afford it. After I read this book, I felt inspired and kept going and that’s why I’m here. For those seeking a role model and they don’t have one at home, look towards a friend’s mom or dad.
Tom McCollow: A couples of things that stuck out to me while reading the book was, along with the rebel support that the one Wes got that the other didn’t, was the commitment level also the other Wes had. His older brother Tony, a drug dealer, was his role model and the message he had tried to pass on was not to get into dealing drugs or that lifestyle. How often do we face ourselves saying the right words but don’t really mean the words that we are saying? There is a commitment and value level we have. Wes’s mother, his grandparents and the others in his family, sacrificed and supported him to get to the military school. Saying the right words is one thing but the level of commitment to those words may vary. One of the passages I recall was where the other Wes saw his father for the last time; this man existed but sort of in an abstract. During his last encounter with his father when Wes went up to wake him up as he was sleeping on the couch, he looked at him and said ‘Who are you?’ which shows that as a form of loss and how we go about replacing that loss in our lives.
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