Discussion Groups, Discussion Questions, & Ethical Issues

In preparation for Fall 2021, all first-year students will read The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore. Each incoming first-year student is expected to purchase a copy of the book during summer orientation, with the expectation that it be read before returning to campus in August. By reading the book over the summer, students will arrive on campus prepared to engage in meaningful discussions with a faculty or staff member prior to convocation. This convocation discussion event using the book will be a springboard to introduce you to critical thinking and begin your first steps toward becoming part of the community of learners on the MTSU campus. Students may purchase the book through the MTSU Phillips Bookstore, or through any other source.
MTSU Convocation Book Discussion Groups Saturday, August 21, 2021, 4:30pm
Join the discussion on Saturday, August 21st at 4:30pm in person on campus. Deadline to sign up is August 13th. You will receive your group discussion location confirmation at your MTSU email address by August 18th. The groups will tackle a few of the discussion topics and ethical issues listed below.
MTSU Convocation in Murphy Center, Saturday, August 21, 2021, 6pm
Immediately following the discussion group, students will attend Convocation featuring author Mr. Wes Moore as the speaker.
Discussion Questions
  • How well does Moore describe the culture of the streets, where young boys grow up believing that violence transforms them into men? Talk about the street culture—its violence, drug dealing, disdain for education. What creates that ethos and why do so many young men find it attractive?
  • In writing about the Wes Moore who is in prison, Wes Moore the author says, "The chilling truth is that his life could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." What do you make of that statement? Do you think Moore is correct?
  • Oprah Winfrey has said that "when you hear this story, it's going to turn the way you think about free will and fate upside down." So, which is it...freedom or determinism? If determinism, what kind of determinism—God, cosmic fate, environment, biology, psychology? Or if freedom, to what degree are we free to choose and create our own destiny?
  • The overriding question of this book is what critical factors in the lives of these two men, who were similar in many ways, created such a vast difference in their destinies?
  • Talk about the role of family—and especially the present or absence of fathers—in the lives of children. Consider the role of the two mothers, Joy and Mary, as well as the care of the author's grandparents in this book.
  • Why did young Wes, who ran away from military school five times, finally decide to stay put?
  • Why was the author haunted by the story of his namesake? What was the reason he insisted on meeting him in prison? Talk about the awkwardness of the two Weses' first meeting and their gradual openness and sharing with one another.
  • From prison, the other Wes responded to the author's initial letter with his own letter, in which he said, "When you're in here, you think people don't even know you're alive anymore." Talk about the power of hope versus hopelessness for those imprisoned. What difference can it make to a prisoner to know that he or she is remembered?
  • The author Wes asked the prisoner Wes, "when did you first know you were a man?" Talk about the significance of that question...and how each man responded.
  • Has this book left you with any ideas for ameliorating the conditions that led to the imprisonment of the other Wes Moore? What can be done to ensure a more productive life for the many young men who grow up on the streets?
  • The author says to the other Wes, “I guess it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between second chances and last chances.” What do you think he means? What is each Wes’s “last chance?” Discussthe differences in how each one uses that chance and why they make the decisions they do.
  • During their youth, Wes and Wes spend most of their time in crime-ridden Baltimore and the Bronx. How important was that environment in shaping their stories and personalities?
  • Why do you think the incarcerated Wes continues to proclaim his innocence regarding his role in the crime for which he was convicted?
  • The book begins with Wes and Wes’s discussion of their fathers. What role do you think fatherhood plays in the lives of these men? How does the absence of their fathers, and the differences in the reasons for their absences, affect them?
  • Wes dedicates the book to “the women who helped shape [his] journey to manhood.” Discuss the way women are seen in Wes’s community. What impact do they have on their sons?
  • The author says “the chilling truth is that [Wes’s] story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.” To what extent do you think that’s true? What, ultimately, prevented their stories from being interchangeable?
  • Throughout the book, the author sometimes expresses confusion at his own motivations. Why do you think he is so driven to understand the other Wes’s life?
  • The author attributes Wes’s eventual incarceration to shortsightedness, an inability to critically think about the future. Do you agree?
  • Wes states that people often live up to the expectations projected on them. Is that true? If someone you care for expects you to succeed—or fail—will you? Where does personal accountability come into play?
  • Discuss the relationship between education and poverty. In your discussion, consider the education levels of both Weses’ mothers, how far each man got in his education, the opportunities they gained or lost as a result of their education, and their reasons for continuing or discontinuing their studies.
  • The book begins with a scene in which the author is reprimanded for hitting his sister. Why is it important for conflicts to be solved through means other than violence? In what way do the Weses differ in their approaches to physical confrontations, and why?
  • Why is the idea of “going straight” so unappealing to the incarcerated Wes and his peers? What does it mean for our culture to have such a large population living and working outside the boundaries of the law?

    Download Discussion Questions

Ethical Considerations
The Other Wes Moore is more than just an intriguing narrative. It is a story about lessons and morals. We invite you to explore and discuss the myriad of ethical issues present below found in the book. 

  • The Common Bond of Humanity
    While on his study abroad trip to South Africa, Wes came to the following realization: “The common bond of humanity and decency that we share is stronger than any conflict, any adversity, any challenge. Fighting for your convictions is important but fighting peace is paramount.” Think about his statements and further discuss your own understanding and conclusion.
  • Privileges and Opportunities
    After landing admission at John Hopkins University with the help of an insider who had gotten to know him on a personal level, Wes made these remarks: “So many opportunities in this country are apportioned in this arbitrary and miserly way, distributed to those who already have the benefit of a privileged legacy.” What personal examples can you offer to either validate or invalidate his statements?
  • The Environment
    Do you think we’re all just products of our environment?” The author posed this question to Wes who answered by saying that we are all products of others’ expectations that we take on as our own." What do you think we are all products of? If we discover that we are products of our environments or others' expectations of us, then do we as individuals bear any responsibility on how our lives turn out?
  • The Role of Fathers
    Both men grew up fatherless. Moore’s father, a radio and television journalist, died at the age of 34 when the author was just three and living in Southern Maryland. The other Wes Moore never had his father in his life. Do you think growing up with their perspective fathers would have changed their lifestyles for either the better or worse?  
  • The Role of Mothers
    Both men were raised by single mothers, but both obviously end up with two completely different fates. What similarities and differences do you notice between the ways each of the mothers’ raised their sons and what role if any do you think these similarities or differences played in their lives?  
  • The Role of Hip-hop
    Wes Moore acknowledges the importance of hip-hop in his generation by saying, “I found in hip-hop the sound of my generation talking to itself, working through the fears and anxieties and inchoate dreams—of wealth or power or revolution or success—we all shared. It broadcast an exaggerated version of our complicated interior lives to the world.” Do you think hip-hop plays the same role today? If not, what type of impact does hip-hop have in today's society?
  •  The Military
    When Wes’s mother realized that her son was placed on academic and disciplinary prohibition from school, she made the decision to “intervene” and send him to the military. What do you think about using the military as a solution or alternative for young men and women who may be experiencing difficulties in the classroom?