Wes Moore, the author of the book The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, was surprised when one day, the police approached him for a crime he did not commit. During the investigation, he came to know of another man who had the same name—Wes Moore. The shared name was not the only coincidence: they had both grown up in the same neighborhood at about the same time. Yet, one Wes Moore went on to become a Rhodes scholar, earn honors in the military, work at the White House, and become a leader in the business community; while the other Wes Moore was sentenced to life in prison. The descriptions of the lives of both Wes Moores are illustrative of the power of heredity and environment in the shaping of a person.
As boys, both Wes Moores grew up in poor, single-parent homes and did not apply themselves in primary and secondary school. The author’s father, a newscaster, died when the author was three years old. He and his two sisters were raised by his widowed mother. Before he was a teen, he became disillusioned with school and began getting into trouble in his neighborhood, even having brushes with the law for petty crimes. His mother decided to send him to military school, but he ran away five times before finally giving the school a chance. Once he decided to stay, he gained a strong sense of purpose and developed a strong work ethic.
Meanwhile, the other Wes Moore, who lived in the same area of Baltimore, was about the same age, and was also being raised by a single mother. He was arrested and convicted for first-degree murder of a police officer during a jewelry store robbery. He is serving a life prison sentence.
Important differences between the childhoods of the two boys are notable. The author had two college-educated parents. His father chose to stay with the family, but died at a relatively young age. He was relatively closely supervised. He, his siblings, and his mother lived with his grandparents after his father died. The author’s mother took extreme steps to try to turn him around. She moved several times to try to find safer neighborhoods. She sent him to military school when he exhibited troublesome behavior.
The other Wes Moore’s father was never a part of his life, choosing to abandon the family before his birth. His mother had been accepted to college, but federal budget cuts resulted in the loss of her Pell Grant. She had to abandon her goal of a college education and instead, had to work three jobs to care for her family. Eventually, she became overwhelmed and was unable to provide the kind of structure the author received. As a result, the other Wes Moore was unsupervised much of the time. He began using and selling drugs, later resorting to more serious crimes, like robbery, for money. It was during a robbery that he shot and killed a police officer—a crime that put him in prison for life.
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