Common Reading

Kasi Zieminski

The Other Wes Moore is an interesting exploration of the power of both choice and circumstance—what is out of a person’s control, and what is in it. Both young men grew up in similar environments—inner city, single-parent homes—yet their ultimate outcomes could not be more divergent. They both made a series of decisions in their lives, some commendable and some disappointing, even tragic.

The author seemed to reach a tipping point while in military school, a moment when education, maturity and a support structure helped him grow into the best version of himself. The other Wes Moore never reached that point, or missed it, due to a blending of circumstance and choice. Could he have achieved similar self-actualization—and avoided a lifetime of incarceration for murdering an innocent man—if a few variables had been different in his life? And how do we help other young men and women set themselves up for success, and keep themselves on the right path?

Most of us can look back on our personal histories and identify moments that ended up defining us in some way, for better or worse. In just a few years, our incoming and current students will be alumni who may reflect upon how their decision to attend SMU directly impacted their lives—as I often consider myself. We should all remember how fortunate we are to pursue higher education and take full advantage of the opportunities it provides.

In a recent commencement address, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted, “Talent is universal, and opportunity is not. And I hope that you can use your education to help chip away at that challenge. The truth is that we have all benefited from opportunities that others extended to us…I hope you will have the chance to pay that forward.”

I appreciated that the book included a list of organizations that serve and support youth across the country. I hope this story inspires readers to think about what we can each do for all the Wes Moores in our communities.

~Kasi Zieminski is the associate marketing director for the Cox School of Business. She is an SMU class of 2006 alumna and is currently pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies in human rights and social justice. Kasi Zieminski

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