By Turki Buyabes
For much of his life, Wes Moore did not know what his purpose was. He has been a banker, a Rhodes Scholar, a soldier, a television host, an author, and a public speaker, but he knew one thing for sure: he wanted to change people’s lives.
Moore, who was giving a talk Monday night at the Politics and Prose bookstore on after the release of his second book The Work: My Search For A Life That Matters, discussed his continuing journey for a meaningful life and shared strong lessons about giving back, risk taking, and the people who helped changed his life, inspiring him to be the man he is today.
Some of these people came from diverse backgrounds and races, but they all had one thing in common: inspiring success to everyone around them.
Cary Alley, a social entrepreneur who founded American Mojo, an apparel line, offers jobs to single mothers. She wanted to give back and help families as she grew up with a single mother who worked many different jobs to provide for her and her siblings.
There were also his fellow veterans Dale Beatty and John Gallina, who both served in Iraq. The two were driving a humvee when an IED exploded, which sent the humvee flying 20 feet in the air. Beatty lost his legs in the blast while Gallina suffered brain damage, a back injury and developed PTSD after the war.
The two friends and veterans partnered together to start an organization, Purple Heart Homes, that builds housing solutions for disabled veterans to assist them and their families.
The story of Alley, Beatty and Gallina, are just a couple of examples of people who turn their tragedy around and inspire success in others.
Moore’s main motivation to look for his purpose in life was an encounter he had with his grandparents.
“I was working in finance at the time in New York and I was visiting my grandparents. My grandfather asked me what I did, and I said worked in finance, and my grandfather said, ‘So you work in the bank?’” Moore recalled.
“That got to me, although I was making more money than my grandparents collectively made their whole lives. I didn’t have the [life]experience they had.”
Moore told the audience that a person will never achieve greatness if he or she starts living the life of somebody else. If you want to be great, you need to do your own thing, he said.
“What makes great people great is their undeniable passion,” he added.
Ever since that moment, he has been a busy bee. Moore obtained a PhD in International Relations with a focus on Islamic Movements in the Western Hemisphere from Oxford University, for which he carried out original research. He worked for Citigroup and was a White House Fellow. He also hosts the Beyond Belief show on OWN, Oprah’s channel.
But Moore admitted that one of the toughest decisions he ever made was when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2005, serving as captain of the 82nd airborne division, because it was hard on his family.
His friend in the army, Mike Fresno, who had already served four tours, had asked him, “Are you ever going to join the fight?”
“I felt I had an obligation to serve my country as their were men and women who just finished high school who
(Moore discussing his new book at Politics and Prose)
were being deployed to Baghdad and other places they couldn’t point their fingers on a map,” he said.
As a former military man, he also gave his thoughts on the Clint Eastwood movie “American Sniper,” which has been in the headlines for its portrayal of the war in Iraq.
Moore, who read the book, but did not yet watch the movie, praised Navy Seal Chris Kyle for depicting the emotion found not only in combat, but also when coming home.
While he did not agree with the language used in the book, he expressed sympathy for Kyle.
“Chris did what his country asked him to do,” he said. “War is a difficult thing to come up with for a cinematic experience.”
Moore also made references to his first book, The Other Wes Moore, which examined his life and the life of another man with the same name, who came from a similar background, but was serving life in prison for murder.
One of the audience members asked him if he still sees the other Wes Moore frequently for any updates on his life.
He responded, “I don’t need to, If I were to write something in my new book about him, it would only take a paragraph.”
The most important part of their correspondence, Moore recalled, was when the other Moore said, “We were not products of our environment; we were products of our expectations.”
“That is why you should never forget your roots, as it is the strength of your backbone, you will never be shocked of success, ” the author said.