When Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore, spoke to more than 600 audience members who filled UNC Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium or tuned in via live-steam for his Sept. 20, 2018 talk, he had a message for each one.
“Each and every one of us are where we are because someone saw us there first. They were willing to wake up every morning and push for you. They were willing to wake up every morning and fight for you. They were willing to wake up every morning and fight for the hope of you,” said Moore.
The best-selling author of a memoir chronicling the upbringing of two kids by the same name shared the story of how he needed a map and guidance, especially when he tried to run away from military school repeatedly during his first five days there. His squad captain gave him a map that led into directly into the woods, followed by a return to school and a call to his mom, who explained how much people had sacrificed for him to be there and were rooting for him.
That lesson – combining personal responsibility and social circumstances – became the basis of his book, which shares his story and that of another Wes Moore, a convicted murder. The other Wes Moore, and Moore’s book by that title, could be anyone though, as the author is clear that the stories of the two kids are emblematic of something bigger.
“The big question becomes, will you? To make a change in the things that need to be changed right now, it’s simply an identification of finding that thing that makes your heart beat a little bit faster…and attacking it. That’s the point. That’s the idea and the feeling behind what it is to be higher educated. Finding that ability to take that talent and that will and that push that other people instill in you and making it matter.”
The audience members who took this message to heart included the first-year students who read Moore’s book for their summer reading (or listened to it or winged it really effectively, as First-Year Experience Committee Co-Chair and Dean of Students Jackie McHargue acknowledged). They were joined by community members and partners from Asheville City Schools Foundation, Asheville Middle School, Open Doors of Asheville, United Way of Asheville & Buncombe County, and Children First/Communities in Schools.
Moore had a special message for those students who engaged with his book as their first taste of UNC Asheville’s liberal arts education.
“The definition of higher education is going to be your ability to understand what is your role in changing our world or what is your role in leading…. That is why you are all here. When you put together your applications, you got accepted to one of the premier institutions in the country,” he said. “They expect you to lead. They expect you to walk out of this place not just with a GPA but with a GPS and an idea about how you plan on leading.”
Read more about Moore’s book and the First-Year Experience at http://news.unca.edu/articles/the-other-wes-moore-unc-asheville-summer-reading, or contact Dean of Students Jackie McHargue, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.250.2370.