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Johns Hopkins UniversityArts and Sciences Magazine

There But for the Grace of God Go I

Wes MooreThere are at least two Wes Moores from Baltimore. One of them is a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, Army captain, and rising star in the business world. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence for killing a police officer during a jewelry store robbery. They are just a few years apart in age, lived blocks from one another, and, according to the more educated and unincarcerated Wes Moore, their lives might have been interchangeable.

Westley Moore ’01 served in Afghanistan and worked in the White House with Condoleezza Rice. He has also written a book, The Other Wes Moore (Random House), which was released in April. The book chronicles Moore’s relationship with the convict, whom he learned of in a newspaper article, but it goes far beyond memoir and meditation. For this project, Moore spent years researching both his life and the other Wes’ life, corresponding with friends and family members who knew them so that he could tell each of their stories accurately. In total, he spent more than 200 hours interviewing. “I wanted to get the facts and the feel right,” says Moore.

After reading the manuscript, the other Wes Moore was amazed at how much information was contained in the chapters. In a recent letter to Moore, he wrote that he was reminded of how little he has done with his own life. He received a life sentence at the age of 23.

The Other Wes Moore, says its author, puts all of our lives and communities in context. He himself was a kid headed for trouble; his mother made sacrifices to send him to military school to straighten him out, and, thankfully, her gamble paid off. “Both stories illustrate a larger point about two kids who were both looking for help—one kid got it, and one kid didn’t,” he notes. Often, Moore is asked what the difference is between him and the other man with the same name. “There is no silver bullet. There’s no one thing,” he says. “The best decisions I made were the decisions I didn’t make on my own, the decisions that were guided by mentors and advisers.”

Profiled in Arts & Sciences Magazine in 2007 and recently named one of Crain’s 40 Under 40, Moore takes care to give back. In addition to his job as an investment professional at Citigroup, he works with several nonprofit organizations and serves on the board of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization that works with students and teaches them how to channel their passions. “We teach children not just to become employees, but employers,” he says. “If you love to cook, or you love music, that’s great. But how can you use it to create wealth for you and your community?” Business ethics—what Moore calls “doing it right”—is another critical component of the education he works to provide.

During his time at Hopkins, Moore, now a university trustee, took a class in crime and criminal justice, taught by Professor Stephen Harris, that required every student to intern for some entity of the criminal justice system. This experience taught him that although there were mentoring programs in Baltimore, none were available to those in the juvenile criminal justice system—and those were the youths who needed help the most. With the help of Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the Center for Social Concern at Hopkins, Moore created Students Taking a New Direction (STAND). Through STAND, Moore and his football teammates mentored, befriended, and tutored those most neglected by the system. The organization still exists and is going strong.

In April, Moore appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about The Other Wes Moore and the value of second chances. “Without second chances, without intervention,” he says, “the entire trajectory of my life could have been different.”

The Other Wes Moore book

Web Extra

Wes Moore trailer