In our recent coverage of local universities’ summer reading assignments, we mentioned that incoming Goucher freshman are required to read The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Baltimore native Wes Moore. Several local high schools have included the book on their summer reading lists as well. But, as it turns out, Baltimore-based students aren’t the only scholars who are reading the bestseller. (See the video on our video landing.)
The non-fiction work follows two boys, both named Wes Moore and both from the same area of Baltimore, but whose lives take divergent courses as a result of the decisions they make and the expectations they set for themselves. The author grew to become a Rhodes Scholar, a decorated veteran, and a White House fellow, among other achievements. The other Wes Moore, by contrast, is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder.
That central message–the idea that the choices you make and the standards you set for yourself determine who you are and what you accomplish–has earned The Other Wes Moore a spot on required summer reading lists at universities across the country, from nearby Virginia Commonwealth University all the way to California State University at Bakersfield.
In a recent interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Moore touched on this point, saying, “I remember there was actually a scene in the book where Wes and I were taking, and I asked him, ‘So do you think that we’re products of our environment?’ (We were talking about Baltimore). He said, ‘you know, I think we’re products of our expectations.’ And it’s so important that these students … really see the importance of that–that the expectations you set for yourself really matter. Because we are a nation of self-fulfilling prophecies, and so what we envision, and how we’re willing to work at it, can really make all the difference as to where we end up.”
During the interview, caller after caller phoned in to express appreciation and love for the book, adoration the author met with sincere gratitude. Speaking of which, gratitude is another virtue Moore hopes to impart on the students reading his tome.
“For so many of these students who are coming into college, they know how lucky they are…It means a lot of people have sacrificed and worked on your behalf, and that the collegiate experience can’t simply be about what are you learning. It also needs to be about, what are you giving and what is the sacrifice that you’re wiling to make in order to help make the lives of others better.”
Moore has worked with schools to create local service projects within a given school’s community in conjunction with the study of the book. This will not only ensure students are giving back, but will also give students an understanding of their new communities.
And there’s one more thing students should be grateful for: Moore is making summer reading much more enjoyable than Homer or Plato ever did.
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