By Camellia Carbonaro
When author Wes Moore wanted to write a guide on how to raise children, his publisher rejected the idea, explaining that no one would be interested in such a book by a 30-year-old man with no kids of his own. Instead, Moore switched course and went with a different approach — telling his own story.
Moore visited Wednesday, Oct. 8, in Kendall Hall, to discuss his book, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” — the required summer reading for incoming freshman this year, following themes of socioeconomic tensions and justice.
His second attempt at a book detailed the lives of two men in Baltimore, Md. Both are named Wes Moore and happen to come from the same area, but the two never get a chance to meet until they are well into adulthood. The first Wes, the author, loses his father at an early age from an untreated case of acute epiglottis. He is subsequently raised by his mother, who eventually sends him off to military school on account of his bad grades.
The other Wes is abandoned by his father and gets involved in the drug trade. Both men come from financially-struggling households and are raised in dangerous neighborhoods, yet end up with different futures. The first Wes manages to clean up his act and become a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow to Condoleezza Rice, host of the Oprah Network’s Beyond Belief and one of the top New York business leaders. The other Wes becomes one of four men involved in a $400,000 jewelry heist.
Four men entered a jewelry store on Monday, Feb. 7, 2000, armed with guns and mallets. The customers were ordered to stay on the ground with their hands over their heads while the suspects smashed the jewelry cases and stole their contents. As the men were attempting to flee, an off-duty police officer, Bruce Prothero, pursued them to the parking lot. The suspects proceeded to shoot the officer three times at point-blank range and drove off. Prothero was transported to a local hospital 45 minutes later where he was pronounced dead.
At the time, Prothero was moonlighting as a security guard for the robbed store to make some extra money. He died at 35 as a father of five and a highly respected sergeant. A salesclerk identified the other Wes as a suspect and the four perpetrators (including Wes’s half-brother, Richard Antonio Moore) were arrested within a few weeks and sentenced to life without parole.
Upon the release of his book, Prothero’s family did not support its publication, “fearing it would give undeserved attention to a ‘cop killer,’” according to Moore. However, Moore explained that his intention is not to kickstart a “Free Wes” campaign. Moore has known the other Wes for close to a decade now and has found that he is both articulate and not what one would expect him to be. However, Moore does not believe in his release and states that his mission is to merely educate people on how to avoid such tragedies.
“The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine,” Moore said in his book. “The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”
According to Moore, there have been at least eight murders in his city since the start of October.
“I know the drill. We do the lantern visuals, sing songs … hold hands and then hold our breaths until the perpetrator is captured,” he said. “Then we blow out the candles and let go of our hands and try to go back to how things were before.”
Coming from a place where this is a norm, Moore has learned that “potential in this country is universal, but opportunity is not.”
If the reader’s takeaway from the book is that there is a good and bad person who just happen to share the same name, they have missed the point. Moore would rather readers treat it as a cautionary tale.
“Both men were searching for something positive,” he said. “One kid got it, one kid did not.”
Moore believes we must realize that “our lives are not that much different from others,” and that everyone has to undergo difficult circumstances. Only when we are able to overcome these difficulties do we realize it is worth it. He compares this to the life of a graduating college student whose mission should not be to “walk across a graduation stage and take a piece of paper” because “the definition of a higher degree is a person who translates personal success into something that actually matters.”
“Your life doesn’t start when you receive a credential,” he said. “It starts when you say, ‘The time is now.’”