“I started thinking it was the most important question I would ever be asked – until I realized it wasn’t,” said Moore, who spoke Wednesday to a standing room only audience in the ballroom of the Brown-Lupton University Union.
Moore wrote “The Other Wes Moore,” this year’s common reading book for incoming first-year students. He told students and faculty there is a far more important question to be answered.
“The most important question you’re going to be asked is ‘who will you fight for?'” Moore said. “Higher education has nothing to do with the degrees on your wall… higher education is about identifying and finding that way, that reason, that person, who is benefited from you sitting here.”
Moore’s challenge to students to rethink their idea of “higher education” was met with a standing ovation.
Moore’s book was “an instant favorite among faculty and staff,” said Laura Shaw, operations coordinator of student development services.
“He’s a very engaging and powerful speaker — almost motivational,” she said.
“The Other Wes Moore” was meant to bring first-year students together through a shared experience.
“I loved the book, especially the differences between the two Wes Moore’s,” said Elise Schraer, first-year pre-business major. “I wanted to hear what he had to say first-hand.”
John Figg, a first-year Chancellor’s Scholar studying biochemistry, said he came to hear words of wisdom from Moore.
“The story fascinated me and inspired me and I wanted to hear him speak,” Figg said. “I’m just hoping for some life lessons and mantras to live by.”
Moore began his address by telling the audience he hoped they had come to understand the stories embedded in “The Other Wes Moore.”
“These stories are not just about these two kids, it’s not about one name…these stories are about all of us,” Moore said. “These stories are about the decisions we make in our lives, and how each and every one of our actions has consequences and implications not just for us, they have consequences and implications for all of us. ”
Kathy Cavins-Tull , vice chancellor for student affairs, said Moore’s speech was more than just words of wisdom.
“I feel like it’s a call to action from him that our education and our opportunities here have to be greater than for us, it has to contribute to our community,” Cavins-Tull said. “This is the time for us to learn to change the world, you have to do something with that and make it a better place – I thought his speech was great.”
Senior religion major Mitchell Simmons, who is from Baltimore, where the book is based, said Moore’s words left him with a strong desire to make an impact.
“Everything I’m doing now is not just for nothing, it’s for a purpose and that purpose is to help someone else and fight for someone else who is not like me and doesn’t have this opportunity,” Simmons said.
Simmons said his way of fighting for others the way Moore discussed would be through working as a pastor.
“That’s the one place where I can have influence in so many areas, through ministry.” Simmons said.
TCU’s Student Government Association declared Oct. 28 Wes Moore Day at TCU.
“We thought it would be a good way to show appreciation for him,” said Julia Zellers, a sophomore political science and economics double major. Zellers presented Moore with a framed copy of the resolution.
Following Moore’s speech a select group, some of whom were Chancellor’s Scholars and common reading facilitators, joined Moore for a dinner reception in The Dee J. Kelly Alumni Center.
“It was just an opportunity to have students here engage more in the conversation and have the opportunity to ask questions, for many students it will give them a more vested experience in today,” said Kay Higgins, associate dean of student development services.
“It was more superlative than wonderful, where do you go from there?” Higgins said. “I think it could be left as a challenge for everyone in the room to benefit the rest of the world.”
Moore also addressed his hometown of Baltimore in the midst of the upcoming trial of the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.
“People ask what’s going to happen to Baltimore, but actually my greater fear is what happens in Baltimore if the only thing we are doing is standing around and waiting for a conviction,” Moore said.
Moore said instead of placing the responsibility and blame on others, it is our responsibility as citizens in society to recognize injustice and do something about it.
“When people say people are products of their environments, it’s often because we decide we are going to wash our hands of responsibility” Moore said.
In his conclusion, Moore shared with the students and faculty a story about Col. Murphy, whom he had met and admired during his time at Valley Forge Military Academy and College.
“When it’s time for you to leave here, when it’s time for you to leave this school, or when it’s time for you to leave this planet, make sure it mattered that you were ever even here because none of us are promised anything,” Murphy, who had cancer, said in his farewell address.
“For the time that we are here,” Moore said. “Let’s do something with it, for the time we have here, lets fight for all those others in all of our lives, how will your higher education matter to them?”
Moore listened to every student and staff member that stood in line to speak with him. He also stayed to sign books and take pictures.