July 19, 2017 – “I’m the kid who grew up in Baltimore or the Bronx,” says Wes Moore in this video interview after his presentation. “I’m the kid that, by time I was 11 years old, I felt handcuffs on my wrists. I’m the kid who grew up in communities that were not only neglected, but we knew they were neglected. We knew that we were not priorities.”
Imagine what that psychologically does to people when they are growing up in communities that have been chronically been left behind. Moore presented at the June 2017 State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Meeting & Conference (AMC).
His advice for lawyers? “We all have to find what makes our heart beat a little faster – and we have to go after it. Whether that’s individual mentoring, volunteering at senior centers, or working on environmental issues. Take both your expertise and passion, and figure out how to band with others to push faster and harder.
“Philanthropy alone will never fix what policies have created. There are policies and laws that are putting people and keeping people in poverty.” For those who are making these policies and laws, Moore asks, how are we using and changing laws to better support those who historically and chronically have been repeatedly left behind?
Wes Moore: An Inspiring Story
Moore, the young CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, was AMC’s closing speaker. He shared his stories, detailed in his New York Times best-selling book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates, which contrasts his path in life with another young man, also named Wes Moore.
The other Wes Moore grew up in the same Baltimore neighborhood, in the same time period. He’s now serving a life sentence for an armed robbery that left an off-duty police officer dead. As Moore explains, both met the expectations that others placed on them.
“As we are thinking about everything, from the way we view criminal justice to the way we deal with redemption and reentry, we want to make sure we are having a level of humanity and a level of understanding as we decide policies and put together recommendations and structures that impact people and communities,” he told AMC attendees.
Moore, whose mother sent him off to military school after his first arrest, at age 13, went on to John’s Hopkins University, where he earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. A U.S. Army captain, he served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Upon return, he served as White House Fellow, special assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Trying to understand how two individuals with similar backgrounds could take such different paths in life, Moore began corresponding with the other Wes Moore, which led to many face-to-face meetings. The book provides some answers.
Moore, who speaks with undeniable passion, says lawyers have a large role to play when it comes to fixing the cycles of poverty, and raising the expectations we place on disadvantaged youth who need encouragement, support, and structure to succeed.
“Your leadership, your voice, the potency of this organization … there is nothing, no issue, no law, that this organization and all of you individually and collectively cannot solve if you were to choose to,” Moore said. “The truth is, it’s never been easy being poor, but it’s also becoming increasingly complicated. Your voice matters,” he said.
Also of interest
Wes Moore: “Lawyers are in a Good Place to Lead the Conversation,” InsideTrack, March 1, 2017