Author, youth advocate urges service during speech at USF

JOLIET, Ill. —Elevate. That’s the word New York Times Best-Selling author Wes Moore writes above his signature when signing copies of his book, “The Other Wes Moore.” Moore, a youth advocate and military veteran, spent just as much time signing books, conversing one-on-one with audience members and posing for photos as he did speaking Thursday night in the Recreation Center at the University of St. Francis. Moore’s message of elevating your community and empowering youth was well received by the crowd of 225, which was comprised primarily of college students.

“Everything moves and changes so quickly that it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do right now,” he said to the students. “I hope that you can say, ‘I want to be useful. I want to be necessary.’ That’s the most important thing that you can ever do.” Moore’s advice was coupled with the telling of his real-life relationship with another man who also is named Wes Moore. The other Moore, who has a similar background and grew up in the same city, made headlines in the Baltimore Sun in 2000 at the same time the paper ran an article about Moore being names as a Rhodes Scholar. The other Moore, however, was wanted and later arrested for the murder of a police officer.

“How do people go in such different directions?” Moore said. “There were questions I wanted to ask, and (the other Moore) was the only one who knew the answers.” Moore then decided to write a letter to man who now was serving a life-sentence in prison. After receiving the initial response, the one letter turned into dozens more. Moore then wove their experiences together, examining how their destinies became so different despite similar circumstances. “This story is about all of us, the societies we live in and the societies we create,” he said. “The world bares witness to our attention to society or our apathy toward society.” Moore said he believe it’s important to share their stories so we understand why the other Moore’s fate was sealed.

“We need a better understanding so history doesn’t repeat itself,” he said. “We’ll watch this cycle continue. We have to be part of the larger solution.” That solution, Moore said, is being relevant and purposeful in your community. “Public service doesn’t have to be an occupation, but it should be a way of life,” he said. Moore’s speech was part of the university’s St. Francis Week activities and its 90th anniversary celebration, USF President Dr. Michael Vinciguerra said.

“His story is very much in keeping with the values we celebrate in the name of our patron saint, Francis,” Vinciguerra said. “Wes’s message is found in our Prayer of St. Francis for he has sought to understand, to spread hope and light and certainly he seeks to be an instrument of peace.”