Youth at Work 2011 Keynote Speaker

Wes Moore

This year's Keynote Speaker is Wes Moore, the author of The New York Times Bestseller, The Other Wes Moore. Told in alternating dramatic narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, "The Other Wes Moore," tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a challenging and at times, hostile world.

Wes will have a book signing following his keynote address. Also, for your convenience, copies of "The Other Wes Moore" will be sold at that time.

About "The Other Wes Moore"

Two kids with the same name, living in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore.

Wes just couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?

That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that has lasted for several years. Over dozens of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods, both were fatherless; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices and the people in their lives would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.

Wes Moore

Wes Moore is a youth advocate, Army combat veteran, promising business leader and author. He graduated Phi Theta Kappa as a commissioned officer from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations. At Johns Hopkins he was honored by the Maryland College Football Hall of Fame. He completed a MLitt in International Relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 2004. Wes was a paratrooper and Captain in the United States Army, serving a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the elite 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in 2005–2006. Wes spearheaded the American strategic support plan for the Afghan Reconciliation Program that unites former insurgents with the new Afghan Government. He is recognized as an authority on the rise and ramifications of radical Islamism in the Western Hemisphere. A White House Fellow from 2006–2007, Wes served as a Special Assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Following his time at the White House, Wes became an investment professional in New York at Citigroup, focusing on global technology and alternative investments. In 2009 he was selected as an Asia Society Fellow. Moore was named one of Ebony magazine’s “Top 30 Leaders Under 30” for 2007 and Crain’s New York Business’ “40 Under 40 Rising Stars” in 2009.

Wes is passionate about supporting U.S. veterans and examining the roles of education, mentoring, and public service play in the lives of American youth. He serves on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and founded an organization called STAND! through Johns Hopkins that works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system. Wes was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and addressed the crowd from Invesco Field. He has also spoken at the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Business Plan Competition, Southern Regional Conference of the National Society of Educations, the education reform session of the third annual Race & Reconciliation in America conference, and the first 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

He has been featured by such media outlets as Charlie Rose, Oprah, People Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CSPAN, and MSNBC, amongst others. The Other Wes Moore was published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, in late April 2010. Wes Moore was born in 1978 and was three years old when his father, a respected radio and television host, died in front of him. His mother, hoping for a better future for her family, made great sacrifices to send Wes and his sisters to a private school. Caught between two worlds--the affluence of his classmates and the struggles of his neighbors--Wes began to act out, succumbing to bad grades, suspensions, and delinquencies. Desperate to reverse his behavior, his mother sent him to military school in Pennsylvania. After trying to escape five times, Wes finally decided to stop railing against the system and become accountable for his actions. By graduation six years later, Moore was company commander overseeing 125 cadets.

On December 11, 2000, The Baltimore Sun ran an article about how Wes, despite his troubled childhood, had just received The Rhodes Scholarship. At the same time, The Sun was running stories--eventually more than 100 in all--about four African-American men who were arrested for the murder of an off-duty Baltimore police officer during an armed robbery. One of the men convicted was just two years older than Wes, lived in the same neighborhood, and in the uncanny turn, was also named Wes Moore.

Wes wondered how two young men from the same city, who were around the same age, and even shared a name, could arrive at two completely different destinies. The juxtaposition between their lives, and the questions it raised about accountability, chance, fate and family, had a profound impact on Wes. He decided to write to the other Wes Moore, and much to his surprise, a month later he received a letter back. He visited the other Wes in prison over a dozen times, spoke with his family and friends, and discovered startling parallels between their lives: both had difficult childhoods, they were both fatherless, we having trouble in the classroom; they'd hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and had run into trouble with the police. Yet at each stage of their lives, at similar moments of decision, they would head down different paths towards astonishingly divergent destinies. Wes realized in their two stories was a much larger tale about the consequences of personal responsibility and the imperativeness of education and community for a generation of boys searching for their way.

Seeking to help other young people to redirect their lives, Wes is committed to being a positive influence and helping kids find the support they need to enact change. Pointing out that a high school student drops out every nine seconds, Wes says that public servants--the teachers, mentors and volunteers who work with our youth--are as imperative to our national standing and survival as are our armed forces. "Public service does not have to be an occupation, " he says, "but it must be a way of life."

Moore lives with his wife Dawn in New Jersey.