BRIAN LAMB, C-SPAN: Wes Moore, do you know anybody who has done what you’ve done at age 27?
WESTLEY MOORE, WHITE HOUSE FELLOW: You know, I’ve been really blessed by the life that I’ve had. I’ve been really blessed by the people that have been involved in my life and have really worked and tried to guide me and steer me in the right direction. You know I’ve had an extraordinary life and I just feel very fortunate.
But you know there are plenty of people who are doing great, you know, many great things, you know, around the country and I’m just I’m just thankful for the opportunity now to get a chance to
LAMB: And I’m going to ask you this again, do you know anybody at your age that has had I mean let’s go down the list, OK: White House Fellow right now, where are you working?
MOORE: Department of State Department of State so I’ll be I’ll be working as a special assistance to Secretary Rice
LAMB: Rhodes Scholar, when did you do that?
MOORE: 2001, I was announced as a Rhodes Scholar and I spent about three years at Oxford doing a masters and started on a Ph.D.
LAMB: Johns Hopkins, what did you study?
MOORE: International relations and economics.
LAMB: Sports, what did you do?
MOORE: Played on both the varsity football and basketball at Johns Hopkins University on the college level.
LAMB: And you’re already in the Maryland Hall of Fame (INAUDIBLE), is that right?
LAMB: How many classes were you president of?
MOORE: I was I was president of my class from my freshman year of high school on until my sophomore year at collect and then after that once I transferred to Johns Hopkins started doing a lot more in terms of, you know, community activities and, you know, communities specifically with Baltimore.
LAMB: What did I miss?
MOORE: Well I mean one thing just in terms of looking, you know, at just the community aspects of different things that we’ve been involved in, you know, starting different organizations and working with a lot of different organizations in Baltimore and Maryland and throughout the country. That’s something I’m very proud of is just the work that we’re doing to support people, you know, all over.
LAMB: A lot of the articles I read about you said you were single, very single. Has that changed?
MOORE: That must be an old article. I’m engaged to a wonderful, wonderful woman, actually in Maryland. We’re living in Baltimore now and she as my grandmother said, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
LAMB: Well what about that People Magazine thing where you were what, one of the most eligible bachelors in the United States?
MOORE: I was.
LAMB: What year was that?
MOORE: I was. That was in 2001 2001. And from what I heard I you know, what happened was they received my name to do a possible story in People Magazine about my background and my life. This was after I received the Rhodes Scholarship. And they called up and they said well we can’t really do a story on him but we received his picture and we’d really like to include him at least give him a nomination for the most eligible bachelor list. And about three months later they contacted me, asked if I was interested in being nominated. And I still thought it was a joke and I said yes, but then about a month after that they called and said you’ve been selected.
LAMB: Now I missed a couple things. You were an intern for the Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke.
MOORE: Yes, which was an amazing experience I mean
LAMB: What year?
MOORE: That was through actually from 1998 until pretty much about 2000. It basically went two different terms that I was that I was an intern with him. And that was a phenomenal experience. It was my first introduction to city government. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Kurt Schmoke and still do to this day and he really just opened my eyes to the importance of government and what good politicians can do is, you know, if you just put them in the right position.
LAMB: You were were you a White House intern?
MOORE: Yes. Well, actually I interned with the Department of Homeland Security. And when I was there it was actually the Office of Homeland Security. In 2001 pretty much a couple months after the attack when Governor Ridge was first brought in by President Bush to be the first director of Homeland Security he wanted to look at some asymmetric threats and not just what we know about but the things we might not know about.
I was doing research at the time at Oxford but I had pretty much started even before the attacks on the rise and ramifications of radical Islam in the Western Hemisphere where I specifically focused on Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda and the operations that they’re doing in South America, the Caribbean and in Canada.
They had heard about my research, heard about the work that I was doing and wanted to know if I was willing to come in and spend some time in Washington. So I finished up my course work, the first-year course work at Oxford and immediately after that went off to went off to Washington and began working with them.
LAMB: And why were you interested in all that at Oxford?
MOORE: It really started through the military. You know I’ve been a military officer since 1998 and I first started hearing about, you know, these groups who are now fighting their way in Latin America. And the more I researched the more I realized that this was not a new phenomenon, for example, the Hezbollah had been there, you know, in Latin America, since the you know, since really from their origins from the early to mid 1980s.
And so I started to think about it and I said to myself, you know, this isn’t only a fascinating military question this is a fascinating international relations question because it dealt with so many facets of the field. It dealt with how do we control borders, it dealt with how do you get a government who isn’t necessarily focused on that to focus on it, look at historical prejudices that exist within Latin America and the Caribbean.
So that’s when I decided I wanted to look deeper into this topic and, you know, the attacks on 9/11 really helped, you know, bring a real focus into that topic.
LAMB: I actually first knew that you existed because of Julie Hirschfeld Davis, she’s been on our programs before, she’s a Baltimore Sun reporter. And you ended up on the front page of the Friday Baltimore Sun, top left, off league, big, you know, feature and this is what I want to quote back to you.
”I have a little bit of democrat in me, I have a little bit of republican in me, but fundamentally I’m me the entire way through.” It sounds well let me just ask you, it sounds very political what you just said.
MOORE: You know and I
LAMB: But you gave a thousand dollars to John Kerry.
MOORE: Yes. And well I understand that it sounds and I understand it sounds political but, you know, one thing I’ve never, you know, liked is being put in a box because I think also when you look at my background, you know, I’ve been able to walk many different paths and see life through many different lenses.
You know I look at my history and I look at the fact that I am, you know, I’m a social moderate. I’m a, you know, strong fiscal conservative. I’m a military officer. I’m an investment banker and I just happen to be also a registered Democrat.
But again, you know, one of the things I think our nation really you know, one of the great challenges our nation is going to have in the future is ways to figure out how do we get rid of the schism, this partisan divide that exists within our country.
I have a you know, a great mentor of mine is actually a former secretary of defense, a Republican, who said to me, you know, it’s getting to the point now that Democrats and Republicans can’t even have lunch together.
LAMB: Are you talking about Colin Powell?
MOORE: No, no. As secretary of defense I’m actually talking about William Cohen, great man and a great mentor of mine.
LAMB: But Colin Powell is also one of your heroes?
MOORE: Yes, sir, yes.
LAMB: Have you ever met him?
MOORE: I have, I have and in fact I first got a chance to meet him through President William Brody, who is the president of Johns Hopkins University. And he knew Colin Powell and is close with Colin Powell and he said to Colin Powell there’s a graduate of our school that I think you really should meet. And he told him a little bit about my background, how I come from Jamaican ancestry, how I, you know, spent a part of my time raised in the Bronx, how I’m a military officer and Colin Powell said he’d like to meet me.
And so that was the first time I got a chance to speak with Colin Powell really was I’d say about eight months before I went off to Afghanistan. And it was interesting because Colin Powell was also one of the people that first brought up when he learned about my background and he said why are you doing finance, you know, why are you doing investment banking, you know, you have so much potential in, you know, public service? And I explained why I decided to do a career in finance as well. And that’s when he said to me have you ever heard of the White House Fellowship and he started telling me about his experiences.
And by that by that point I had, I had heard about the White House Fellowship because of a gentlemen named Lieutenant Colonel Michael Fenzel who is currently a battalion commander over in Italy. But I’ve known Mike Fenzel since 2001. He was a football player at Johns Hopkins University and I believe he finished back in 1995 I’m sorry, 1992.
And Coach Margraff, who was a football coach at Johns Hopkins, called up Mike Fenzel when he was a White House Fellow down in Washington, he was working for the National Security Council, and he said, ”Mike, there’s a guy here I really think you should meet.” And said, ”You guys are going to cross path at some point so it might as well be now.”
And Mike Fenzel invited me down to Washington, took me on a tour of the White House, took me on a tour of the West Wing, and that’s was when he first said, you know, this is something, you know, that’s going to be further down the line but I really want you to think about this White House Fellowship; and told me about his experiences and what it was like being in the White House on 9/11, which he was.
And that was the first time that I really got that bug in my mind about looking at this White House Fellowship.
LAMB: Now there are only 14 of you.
LAMB: And you are the youngest.
MOORE: I am, yes.
LAMB: How many this time around applied?
MOORE: They don’t give the numbers out as to how many applied. The speculation that we have it’s anywhere, you know, between 12 and 1,400 but they don’t publicize exactly how many apply.
LAMB: What was the process like to be chosen?
MOORE: Yes. It was a long and arduous process. And the great thing about it for me, well great in some ways, was that I actually did my application while I was in Afghanistan. It was really when I was in Afghanistan Lieutenant Colonel Fenzel again was my deputy brigade commander in Afghanistan and he called me in his office one night and he said, ”Remember years ago I told you about that White House Fellowship? Well now might be the year to apply and I want you to think about it.” So I took 48 hours and I thought about it and I prayed about it and went back into his office and told him I’m applying.
And so what we’d do is we’d go on missions during the day and then I’d come back and night and put together this application for the White House Fellowship. And they just asked a series of questions all about your background, your history, your aspirations, if you can name one policy proposal to the president what would it be. And once you completed that process they decided who were going to be, you know, their state and regional finalists.
I applied out of Maryland and Washington, D.C. so that was my region. And but immediately following that I went through that process they selected a few to go on to the nationals, I was one of them. And then at the end we went to the nationals where we had about 30 people 32 people who were applying from the nationals all went through a series of interviews. And it literally lasted about four days straight of interviews, you know, interviewing different panels and the questions were all over the place, everything from how do you feel about a certain policy position to tell us the best book you’ve ever read to whatever the case might be.
And then a week after we did the finalist interviews they made the selections and I was one of the 14.
LAMB: Go back to what you said about the policy position you would like to put in front of the president, what was it?
MOORE: It was basically looking at recidivism and ways to affect recidivism inside of our country. One issue that I
LAMB: What does that mean?
MOORE: I’m sorry, basically what recidivism is when people leave prison and, you know, end up going right back into prison. Right now the statistics that we have in our country are horrendous. We have a 70 percent recidivism rate. 70 percent of people that leave prison will re-enter prison within a matter of three years. And of that 45 percent will re-enter prison within the first three months.
So what’s happening is we have people who are inside of the prison population who once they are released from prison are not prepared. They don’t have the job skills, they don’t have the education skills, many are still leaving with mental health-psychological issues that still need to be dealt with. And they end up going back into society with no money and then we expect them to fend for themselves.
LAMB: Now where did you get this idea?
MOORE: It really well, one, I’ve worked with the juvenile population for years, you know, both with the program that we started, STAND, which works with juvenile offenders; but also just really concerned about this issues of recidivism and the fact that we put over we put about $200 billion a year into our criminal justice system and when you look at the statistics that exist out of that criminal justice system it’s not working.
So what can we do better? How can we save money and make the population safer at the same time?
Also there was a documentary by a gentleman named Tod Lending called ”Omar and Pete”, which was extremely influential in my belief that we need to do more to create a better environment, not only a better society for us but also a better environment for these individuals to re-enter society into.
LAMB: Where did you see the documentary?
MOORE: It was actually my mother works for the Annie E. Casey Foundation and
LAMB: Annie Casey
MOORE: Annie E. Casey Foundation
LAMB: Annie E. Casey.
MOORE: Yes. And it’s the largest foundation solely devoted towards disadvantaged children and families. And one of the things that she did at the Casey Foundation is she funds documentaries because she works a lot with media outreach and this was one of the documentaries that she funded.
And this was the second time she’d worked with Tod Lending actually. Tod Lending did another documentary called ”Legacy” which actually was nominated for an Oscar and for best documentary. And it really focused on a family in the south side of Chicago and who is being raised by their grandmother. In fact, in many ways that documentary has been the motivation for some of the grand family housing projects that we’re working on right now in Baltimore.
But then the second documentary, ”Omar and Pete”, focused on two individuals named ”Omar and Pete” who were re-entering society after leaving the justice system in Baltimore and it followed them. One of them did very well, one of them did not. And he talked about some of the challenges that they faced once they re-entered society.
LAMB: What’s the what’s the book that you told them that was your favorite book?
MOORE: There are quite a few. I mean one in terms of favorite book and one book I always read is the Bible. I’m a very spiritual person and I think a lot of that comes from my family, from my grandfather. My grandfather was the first black minister in the history of the Dutch Reform Church and he’s also a Jamaican immigrant. He my grandmother is Cuban and they met, married in Jamaica. But I’m really the first, you know, in my family, at least amongst my sisters and I, to be born inside of the United States. So, you know, being the son of immigrants, you know, I can understand the importance of faith and what he brought down to us, about the importance of having that faith and importance of belief.
And I told them another book is one of my favorites is also ”Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela.
I had a change to life in South Africa for about six months when I was a senior in college and I was doing research on music and music’s affect on social change. But having the chance to live in South Africa and having the chance to live in the townships of South Africa, Alunga (ph), which was one of the townships that I lived in, was a remarkable experience. And just listening to the stories about what it was like during the what life was like during the apartheid era.
And I remember one story about the family that I was with that I stayed with when I was in South Africa and the mother was telling me a story about what life was like in apartheid and their father her husband, their father was killed during apartheid. And she was telling these horrific stories.
And I just asked here, I said, you know, how can you forgive? How can you forgive after all of that? And she just gave me an easy smile and she just looked at me and she said, ”Because President Mandela asked us to,” and it was that simple, because he asked us to.
And so looking reading that book particularly in the context that I read it in, was just so moving and so powerful to me and it really showed me, you know, the importance of leadership and that one man really can make a difference.
LAMB: Going back to the process on the White House Fellows, who is the one person you’ll remember that you met during that process that was on the other side trying to choose out of this 1,200 or so people the 14?
MOORE: Who is the one person that I remember?
LAMB: Somebody that asked you all these questions and somebody that you were meeting for the first time.
MOORE: There are a lot of remarkable people that I met during
LAMB: I only asked for one.
the process, you know, people, you know, such as, you know, Margaret Dunning (ph) and James Rosebush (ph), and a collection of others.
One panelist who I remember the most and was always trying to throw the toughest questions at us was Armstrong Williams. Armstrong Williams I think literally spent all of his time trying to figure out what are the toughest questions I can ask each of these panelists and see how they react to these different questions. And I think it was pretty much unanimous throughout the entire panel that Armstrong was the one who was trying to give us the most difficult questions but it was a great process percent
LAMB: Now he’s gone through his own problems in town, you know, he used to be very visible and then because of that problem he had with being paid money to write column favorable to the administration thing. Did you all talk about that, I mean his mistake?
MOORE: We did, we did. And you know he spoke about it and, you know, spoke about what the challenges were like and how, you know, because of that, you know, maybe some endorsements were lost. But he stood by exactly what he said during the interviews, the fact that, you know, he felt that, you know, what he did, you know, he came back an apologized for it and he moved on.
LAMB: In Julie Davis’ article she says, this is in quotes, ”you were chronically rowdy at 13 years old.”
MOORE: Yes. I really was. And that was actually one of the reasons I was sent to Valley Forge.
LAMB: Valley Forge what?
MOORE: Valley Forge Military Academy. And I was actually first sent to Valley Forge when I when I was 12 years old. I had a lot of difficulties growing up, specifically understanding what manhood was. And I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so interested now in helping, you know, young boys go through this process of figuring out what manhood really is.
In many ways I think it started, you know, back years before with the death of my father. I my family lived in Maryland, we lived in Tacoma Park, Maryland. And as you mentioned, my father was a very popular radio and television host on WJLA and WMAL and
LAMB: Here in Washington?
MOORE: Here in Washington, D.C.
LAMB: Wes Moore was his name.
MOORE: That’s right, that’s right.
And when he died he was basically misdiagnosed and died of something called acute epiglottitis when he was only 32 years old. And essentially what acute epiglottitis is it’s a swelling of your epiglottis to the point that it covers your windpipe.
And what happened was he started explaining to my mother one night and just said, ”You know I’m feeling like my throat is closing. You know I’m not sure what it is.” Maybe he thought it was strep and you know, he said I’ll just go take a nap and, you know, kind of move on from there.
He woke up later on and woke my mother up and said, ”It’s still feeling like something’s really wrong.” And he actually tried to take medicine and he couldn’t swallow it, the medicine wouldn’t go down his throat.
So he tried to go back to sleep, woke up the next morning it was, you know, getting worse, and then he went to the hospital. He actually drove himself to the hospital. And this was right after he finished one of his, you know, one of his shows, one of the final shows his final show.
And he went to the hospital and the doctors told him oh, we think it’s just a sore throat, maybe you scratched it on something, but they didn’t give him any treatment. And this was to the point that he was sitting in the hospital and couldn’t pick his head up. And my mother now realizes the reason he was having difficulty picking his head up because he was losing oxygen.
They released him from the hospital. They told him, you know, just to go ahead and try to sleep it off, you know, there wasn’t much of a problem, they couldn’t figure out what it was. And about five hours later my mother and my two sisters were in the hospital were in the kitchen cooking dinner and I was sitting at the dining room table, which is right at
LAMB: And you were three?
MOORE: And I was three years old.
And we heard this collapse. And I turn around and I look at the steps and it was my father laying at the bottom of the steps just gasping for air. And I was paralyzed. I couldn’t I couldn’t, you know, I didn’t know to do.
And eventually my sister ran in and screamed for my mother, my mother ran in, and they called the ambulance. And but by the time he had gotten to the hospital there was nothing that they could do.
My mother actually took part of the settlement, you know, really took the money from the settlement and used it towards training for ambulance and fire crews who were not only in the Montgomery County area but also in the surrounding areas to teach them how to keep a person alive who might be suffering from that type of from that type of illness because he could have been kept alive long enough to make it back to the hospital it’s just the ambulance crew didn’t know how to do it.
LAMB: How do you remember at age three your father?
MOORE: You know it’s funny, in terms of specific memories I only have two. One memory was when my mother got mad at me for something that I can’t remember, you know, what it was, but she sent me up to my room and I went up to my room. And my father went up behind me and he sat me down in my room and he said, you know, do you understand why she was mad at you? And was talking through the process so I would understand just why she was so upset at me.
And the only other memory that I have of him was his death, was watching.
LAMB: So what impact did it have on you that you lost your father at age three?
MOORE: Well, I think initially it was just a real level of confusion. I think my mother even said that, you know, at his funeral she looked in you know, after we viewed the body, I came back to her in the seat and I whispered in her ear, you know, ”Mommy, why is daddy in a box?” because I still didn’t understand, you know, the gravity of what exactly happened.
And I think as I got older it really more turned into an anger. It turned into a, you know, an anger that I didn’t have a father and a lot my friends did, or, you know, that I couldn’t do the things that all my friends were doing because my father wasn’t around. And I think that actually led to a lot of the disciplinary problems that I had.
And I had wonderful male role models who were around, my grandfather, a lot of my uncles, and you know, a lot of just family friends who I call uncles who, you know, who were great and fantastic and really stepped up after my father died. But I think I just still had a real sense of anger and disillusionment when led to academic troubles, which eventually led to, you know, getting in trouble back in the Bronx, you know, getting in legal troubles, and then that led me to being sent to Valley Forge Military School.
LAMB: How legal was your trouble?
MOORE: It actually fortunately wasn’t too legal, it wasn’t too legal for the fact that I remember one time, for example, my friend and I were picked up for vandalism and trespassing and basically what we were doing was tagging, just tagging your name. Kind of very similar to the Fresh Prince at the beginning of the Fresh Prince episodes where Will Smith is spray painting, a cop taps him on the shoulder and he pretends like it’s aerosol deodorant. That was basically what we what we were doing.
And so the cop took us to the side and put us in handcuffs and put us in the back of his police car. And we sat there for a while not sure what was going on, scared out of our minds
LAMB: In the Bronx?
MOORE: In the Bronx. And then the cop turned around and starting telling us, you know, do you all understand how much trouble you could get into, you know, you’re just kids. And, you know, basically talked to us for about 10 minutes and then at the end of the 10 minutes took the handcuffs off and let us go.
But that was a real indicator and a real indication of the direction that I was heading in simply for the kids that I was around, the kids that I was hanging around with, you know, back in back in New York, back in the Bronx. And my mother decided it was time to time to make a change.
LAMB: And what was your mom doing back in the Bronx in those years?
MOORE: She my mother is basically a writer and also a producer and a fantastic producer. In fact she was the producer for ”Suffer the Little Children” and she won a Peabody for that. And so at that time she was working for Essence (ph), she was working for a furrier, and in fact, before I went to Valley Forge my mother was really working, you know, basic three jobs. And so that was one of the reasons why we move up to New York to be closer to my grandparents up there and to really get a chance to be around them and so they can give her some support because she was working so many jobs in order to provide for the family.
LAMB: Was she born in Jamaica?
MOORE: She was.
LAMB: And she met your father here?
MOORE: In Washington, D.C., yes. She met my father in Washington. In fact she worked for my father and so they got a chance to get to know each other, you know, probably now what we would consider, you know, illegal and fraternization but that’s how they first got a chance to really get to know each other and fell in live.
LAMB: Now how did you get to the military school? In other words, you were having chronically rowdy who’s idea was it to go to the military school?
MOORE: It was really my mother’s idea. A fellow church worshipper from the Bronx sent her son to Valley Forge about 10 years prior and her son did very well and finished a company commander and started speaking to my mother about maybe this is what Wes needs. And my mother said maybe it is because it’s not just about changing schools I really want to change his environment and I really want to get him to a point where he has male role models around him constantly like in military school.
And, you know, the challenge of military school was that it came with a pretty significant price tag. It was in Wayne, Pennsylvania, in the middle of one of the most expensive areas around the main line of Pennsylvania. So she ended up contacting friends and family and co-workers letting them know I really want to send Wes to this school but I can’t afford it, you know, can you help out. And people started giving money and starting (INAUDIBLE) whatever it was.
small donation go there.
MOORE: I think when I was there it cost about $15,000 $14-$15,000.
MOORE: Everything, everything. And but she still couldn’t afford it. So eventually she went to my grandparents and explained to them the situation and they actually ended up taking out a home loan in order to pay for me to go to this school.
And those first few days of that school again, I can’t say I hated it because you can’t hate something that you don’t know or don’t really understand, but I did not like it I did not like it because it was just such a stark difference from the life I was used to
LAMB: What did you like about it?
back in the Bronx.
The waking up early. I tell you, Brian, look at the first couple of days, the first couple of days I actually ran away from Valley Forge five times in the first four days I ran away.
LAMB: Where did you go?
MOORE: Anywhere, I just ran off campus. I was running through the woods, just running through the streets, just trying to find my way out because at Valley Forge we all heard about this train station and this train station would take you to 30th Street in Philadelphia and I could take that to Penn Station in New York and then I could hop on the Two Train to take me back up to the Bronx. So I had this whole plan worked out in my mind.
So the after the fourth time I ran away my squad leader, who was probably two years older than me, came into my room and he closed the door behind him and he said, ”Listen, Moore, you know, it’s obvious that you don’t want to be here and quite honestly we don’t want you here. You are more of a disturbance than anything else. So what I’ve done is I’ve drawn you a map how to get to this train station.”
And so I took a look at this map and literally I was basically in tears I was so excited. I gave the guy a hug, (INAUDIBLE) I’ll never forget you, thank you so much. I packed up my bag and I left it under my bunk because I knew later on that night I’d, you know, plan my great escape.
I set my alarm for it must have been about, you know, 11:30-11:45. And as soon as my alarm went off I quickly shut it off, I said goodbye to my roommate and I grabbed my bag and I took off and I left. And I started trying to follow this map with a little flashlight and a little bag that I had just trying to follow this map to try to get to the train station. And remember, I mean at that time I’m 12 years old and I’m from the city and I’m in the middle of the woods. So I’m hearing snakes and bears and tigers and all these things that never existed but my imagination is going crazy at this point.
And after a while I just sat down and I started crying, I was so scared and so hurt that I just wanted to leave, I just wanted to go home. And then I started hearing laughter. And then I turned around and it was my chain of command who were behind me. The map was fake. The map was a map to the middle of the woods. They just wanted to see how bad I wanted to get out of that place.
So eventually they dusted me off and they brought me back to campus and they let me make one phone call. And that was during the plebe system so phone calls were not allowed. But they let me make one phone call. They said, ”You’ve got three minutes.”
And I called home and I called and I told my mom I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, I’ll be a better student, I’ll be a better, you know, son. And my mother stopped me and she said, you know, ”Too many people have worked too hard to get you there and your father is looking down and he’s proud of you. And we all just want you to give it a shot.” And I did and that was how the Valley Forge experience really began for me.
LAMB: When did you know that you could make good grades and you could be president of your class, and you could eventually go off to being what’s now a White House Fellowship
MOORE: Yes. It was really toward the end of that year because at the end of that year I was doing well academically, I was doing well tactically, athletically, and I was a real leader amongst my class group. And that was something that my mother always said, she said ”He always had leadership skills, he just was always channeling them in the wrong direction.”
And but it was at the end of that year so at the end of the year my mother said to me, ”You know you have a choice, you can go back to another school if you want, you can come back to the Bronx.” But I told her if possible I’d really like to stay at Valley Forge, you know, people were relying on me now. I was going to be a squad leader, I was going to have, you know, cadets under me, so it meant it meant a lot to me to have that responsibility. And so I asked her if I could stay and fortunately since I had done well I then received athletic and academic scholarships to stay and I was able to finish.
LAMB: How long were you there?
MOORE: I was there for seven years. I finished up middle school, then finished up high school. And then by the end of high school I was actually getting recruited for basketball, I was, you know, one of the top players, you know, in the area, one of the top guards and I was getting scholarship offers from schools all over the country.
But one thing was that I loved the military. I loved the army, I loved service. And a lot of the male mentors that I had up to that point had been men in uniform because of Valley Forge.
LAMB: What did you love about it?
MOORE: I loved the discipline. I loved the leadership. I loved the fact that, you know, you’re taking these x-amount of people whether it be three people or 300 people and you’re putting them in and then you’re in charge of their health, their welfare, their development. And I liked that, I thought I was good at it.
And also I knew just the idea of service that I wanted to give something back because I knew how much people had sacrificed and suffered in order for me to get to the point that I was in. You know my sister says it beautifully, she says my younger sister says our mother wore sweaters so we could wear coats. And that was just, you know, very symbolic of our entire life just how much people had to sacrifice in order for us to get to where we were so I knew that sacrifice was something that I would be willing to do.
LAMB: If you’re 27 how old is your younger sister?
MOORE: My younger sister is 25, my older sister is 33.
LAMB: And what are they doing?
MOORE: My older sister works for a company called Datatel and she does all the events planning for a company called Datatel in Virginia and also, you know, runs her own events planning business. And my younger sister is now final year at Stanford Law School.
LAMB: Where did she get her interest in law?
MOORE: Actually to tell you the truth it’s probably from her husband. He’s a lawyer out in L.A. She has always and she’s probably one of the most gifted writers that I know a phenomenal writer really follows from, you know, along follow my mom on that because my mother is also a great writer.
And she went to Princeton undergrad and then went to the Berkeley School of Journalism. And then it was at the Berkeley School of Journalism that she met her husband who was at that time a last year at BOLT (ph), Berkeley Law School. And then out of nowhere she was saying she wanted to go to law school. So I really think a lot of it is because of them.
LAMB: Are you through with your education?
MOORE: I think I’m through with my academic education. I believe I’m through with the academic education now it’s all about practical education which will continue on.
LAMB: Go back to the Valley Forge, you’re in the middle of your education, seven years there, what did you how about college, where did you get that?
MOORE: Yes. Well what happened was I, you know, again, once I started looking at different basketball scholarships I decided I wanted to join the Army and ended up even reneging on a basketball scholarship offer and going on and joining the Army.
After the two years at Valley Forge I graduated, I was the regimental commander, which was the top ranking cadet in the entire school, and at that and then also started looking at where was I going to transfer to because Valley Forge was only a two-year school.
And so I received a commission in the United States Army so at 19 I became an Army officer and actually I think at that time was the youngest Army officer in the entire Army and also had an associate’s degree.
So I started looking at different schools that I wanted to look at. I applied at five and actually got into all five. And then one of the schools I applied to and visited was Johns Hopkins. And I loved Johns Hopkins. I love it because I knew I wanted to study international relations, I loved it because it was in Baltimore in Maryland, I loved the professors and my instructors, and so it really became a perfect fit for me and so I decided to move on to Johns Hopkins.
LAMB: You’re so positive and upbeat, anything going wrong in this time? I mean do you miss anything, I mean did you miss a grade, did you ever flunk anything in college?
MOORE: You know I think because of the environment at Valley Forge and the environment that we also had a Johns Hopkins flunking was never an option. And that also came from something from my family. I come from a family, you know I look at my grandfather who first came to this country and it’s a beautiful story because he first came to this country for school. He went to Lincoln University and it’s interesting because he
LAMB: Back in those days did you do drugs?
LAMB: Did you drink?
LAMB: So I mean other than the story you told us about getting in trouble with the policeman and all that stuff with vandalism, where was the trouble?
MOORE: I think a lot of it came from at that point I was really trying to figure out my whole concept of manhood. And I was having real difficulty with that and what I was doing was I was looking at my friends in the Bronx who were then telling me, you know, what it means to be a man, that being a man means, you know, going out and, you know, talking to a whole bunch of girls, and being a man means getting in trouble and being disrespectful to teachers, and not doing well in school. That’s what manhood was all about. And it was backwards and it was garbage but that’s what I was listening to.
LAMB: Where does that come from?
MOORE: You know from in many ways I think it comes from a lack of enforcement inside of inside of the family, you know, especially from a lot of my friends who, you know, who didn’t have any kind of have the same kind of support I had in my family so that’s what they believed. They saw it from television, they saw it from movies, they saw it from a whole series of different images and, unfortunately, in our society images become realities.
And I think a lot of it was from some of the schools that we have, you know that we have in our society where they weren’t getting the same kind of structure that were guiding that was guiding them in the right directions. I mean and that’s a major challenge we have in our society, particularly looking at African American men and African American boys.
Looking at the statistics that we have in our community, you know, the fact that 70 percent of African American children are now being raised by single mothers. My mother did a fantastic job with me, she took care of me, she gave me good lessons, she taught me lessons of hard work. There is one thing that she couldn’t do and that was teach me how to be a man. A woman cannot teach a young boy how to be a man same as I can never teach a young girl how to be a woman. That’s where male parental involvement and just male involvement period in these young boys’ life is so important and something that, you know, we really need in our society amongst African American youths.
LAMB: How long did you spend on active duty in the Army and what unit were you in?
MOORE: I actually well most recent time we were I Afghanistan, I was with 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Brigade. How that came about was I was actually doing investment banking for Deutsche Bank, who is just a fantastic company, and
LAMB: Are you still with them?
MOORE: No, I’m not. Now that I’m heading off to Washington I had to, you know, put in separation papers with them.
But immediately after finishing Oxford I started doing investment banking. And the big reason why I wanted to do investment banking was because I knew the importance of understanding the global financial markets in terms of understanding policy. I knew that I wanted to focus on policy and I wanted to, you know, long term make real, you know, substantial changes in the public policy arena. But I knew also understand that you have to understand budgets, you have to understand global markets, you have to understand international business and that’s why I decided to go into investment banking.
So I was doing that for a while and was called up and started doing training. And again, Deutsche Bank was fantastic throughout the whole time, really what a model company has to have as you treat when you have a reservist how you should treat them once they, you know once they get called up.
And then Lieutenant Colonel Fenzel called me up while I was doing training and said the 82nd is heading over to Afghanistan and there’s a job that we need done that I think you’d be perfect for.
LAMB: What was the job?
MOORE: It was to go be the director of information operations for the 1st Brigade of the 82nd.
We were stationed on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And as the director of information operations what I did was, you know, you managed all the flow of information either coming in or going out, you worked with the PSYOP team, the Psychological Operations Civil Affairs. You did a lot of work with the Afghan government in terms of rebuilding their society and figuring out ways that we can help in terms of rebuilding schools, rebuilding wells, you know, going after the insurgents whether they be Taliban or al Qaeda.
And a big initiative that I was focusing on was one called Program Takhim-E Solh which essential is the reconciliation program in Afghanistan where the Afghans were trying to get, you know, Afghans who were you know, regardless of their history whether they were HIG, Taliban, al Qaeda, it didn’t matter. If you were an Afghan citizen as long as you’re willing to come over, turn in your weapons, you know, and pledge allegiance to this new Afghan government we want you to be part of this new society.
So, you know, I was basically helping to structure the American response to that and how we could assist them. And it was very successful. I mean when we first arrived about 27 people had reconciled and that was about it and by the time we left Afghanistan it was about 550.
LAMB: How long were you there?
MOORE: On the ground a little over nine months and then training a little over you know, total a little over a year complete but on the ground a little over nine months.
LAMB: Did you come close to any kind of combat?
MOORE: Yes. It’s I mean it’s a combat zone so I mean in you know the dangerous thing about a lot of those areas is simply just going from point A to point B, you know, whether it be snipers or IADs or whatever the case might be.
So, you know, but I was fortunate that we stayed, you know, safe. But you know, the realities of combat are everywhere when you’re over there.
LAMB: So your obligation to the Army is for how long?
MOORE: I think my obligation now is complete so now I’m, you know, just staying in because, you know, I still enjoy being part of the military. You know I’ve had the chance to, you know, command troops and lead troops, you know, lead troops in combat which is which has been a fantastic experience. So now I’m just trying to see what’s the best way for me to serve going forward.
LAMB: And you’re still only 27 years old?
LAMB: All right, when did you go to Oxford and how did you get there?
MOORE: OK. I first went to Oxford actually I arrived in Oxford September 23rd, 2001. We were some of the first flights that were able to go back across the Atlantic after 9/11.
LAMB: So what was the difference between that process and say the White House Fellow process?
MOORE: They’re both long processes. They are both, you know they’re both arduous. I think with the Rhodes Scholarship it really more focuses on the things you did in college but more what do you want to do and why is Oxford the right step for you because it’s not just about being a Rhodes Scholar it’s about going to Oxford and why is Oxford a great fit for you.
And for me I wanted to study international relations and where better to do it than one of the old the oldest English-speaking university in the world where I knew that I’d be one of few Americans in my class. So I could learn about international relations from students you know, with students from India, and Iran, and Zimbabwe.
So the White House Fellow process is different because it focuses a lot on what you have done because this is really (INAUDIBLE) career professionals so they focus a lot on what has been your past, what has been your history, and then also and what do you plan on doing after you finish up with the White House Fellowship.
LAMB: What was Oxford like for you?
MOORE: Oxford was a great experience for me but initially was difficult. Initially it was difficult for a collection of reasons. One, we are now a country of war. You know, really after the first month of my time in Oxford, you know, was when President Bush first ordered, you know, the fighting begin in Afghanistan. And that was a very odd feeling for me and I know a lot of my military cohorts talked about it a lot because the people we trained with, the people we went to school with, they’re now patrolling in Afghanistan and later on in Iraq and we’re sitting there drinking port and, you know, disgusting discussing, you know, these large esoteric issues, you know, in beautiful halls that were built in the 14th Century.
And also it was a bit uncomfortable because you felt like while you were physically there your mind, and your spirit and your soul was elsewhere. So I think that was challenging.
But overall it was just an amazing experience to grow. You met some amazing individuals over there who are still to this day some of my best friends. And you had to chance to, you know, just really study and learn from a in a completely different environment.
For my research in particular I had a chance to travel all throughout the Middle East, all throughout Latin America because I knew for my research this wasn’t something I could sit in a library and do. This was something you had to get on the ground, you had to talk to folks, you had to, you know, really get your finger on the pulse of what was going on and Oxford allowed me to do that.
LAMB: Back in 1992, which feels like it was yesterday but it wasn’t and you were how old in 1992?
MOORE: What 12 years old?
LAMB: I that was during your chronically rowdy time.
LAMB: I was in a room in Oxford, we did a special a long 30-hour special on Oxford because of Bill Clinton had just been elected. And I remember being in a room with Rhodes Scholars, they were 24 years old how many were 24 Americans?
LAMB: 32 Americans. But the whole group of young people in the room and I remember asking the question of these Rhodes Scholars what’s the impact of the Rhodes Scholarship on you. And the one I remember the most was somebody that said the biggest impact is I’ve now had this Rhodes Scholar and part of my name and the world thinks I’m going to conquer it and it’s did that ever has that bothered you at all that you have all these things under your hat and people expect the moon from you?
MOORE: It’s definitely challenging. You know anytime anyone has high expectations placed on them, particularly from other people, it’s challenging.
How I think, you know, there’s a couple of ways I’m, you know, able to manage it easily. One is just between my family and friends they make sure that you’re grounded and they make sure that you are (INAUDIBLE). You know well I think a lot of (INAUDIBLE) you realize that, you know, this is this is a blessing from somewhere else, this is a blessing from above. And I know the steps I’ve been able to take and the walk I’ve been able to make is not because of me or the or, you know, this certain special talent I have but it’s because of what I’ve been bless to, you know, possess because of someone else. And I know I’m just following a path that God has laid out for me.
So that’s how one of the ways I’ve really been able to, you know, to, you know, to go about, you know, this path and not have to worry about the expectations.
I think the other big thing is I don’t anyone is going to place higher expectations on me than I’m going to place on myself. I demand a lot of myself and I push myself hard.
LAMB: What are you not good at?
MOORE: I think at times honestly, I think at times one thing I’m not good at is listening. And one thing I have a real difficulty in doing sometimes as well, particularly for the people that are closest to me who I know are just saying things to be, you know that are in my best interest, but sometimes I’m just I’m just so, you know, kind of driven and focused on something that I don’t listen to people’s advice. And I think that’s something that I’m definitely trying to work on.
And I think also just in terms of in terms of leadership one thing I’m also really trying to work on is that I push people hard. I demand a lot of people, again, because I think I demand a lot of myself. And one thing I have to understand is that people are going to make mistakes and you have to be able to rebound from those mistakes and move on.
So I think those are a couple of things I’m definitely trying to work on.
LAMB: What college were you in at Oxford?
MOORE: I was at Wolfson College.
LAMB: Is it a big one or a small one?
MOORE: It’s a small one and it’s actually interesting because for the Rhodes Scholarship process they ask you, you know, what is it about you know, what about the colleges do you like because they don’t ask you what colleges you want to go to they just say what is it that you want in a college.
So I said I want a large college that’s in the middle of the city that is one of the older colleges. And they put me in Wolfson, which is really the antithesis of that. It’s a smaller college, it’s a was built in 1978 or something along those lines, and it’s, you know, about a mile away from center city.
But one thing about Oxford is no matter what college you go to it’s a great experience and Wolfson was that for me. You know it was just a terrific place. It was all graduate students and just turned out to be a wonderful, wonderful experience. Some of my best friends in the world I met actually because of Wolfson College because we were neighbors.
LAMB: In all these experience whether it was Valley Forge, whether it was the 82nd Airborne, whether it was your basketball and football experience, whether it was your White House well you’re not when do you start the White House Fellow?
MOORE: September 1.
LAMB: What are you going to do in your White House Fellowship for Secretary Rice?
MOORE: Well I’ll be working actually very closely with Ambassador Tobias focusing on U.S. aid and U.S. foreign aid just trying to get a, you know, a handle on where is, you know because it’s a huge budget
LAMB: And his job is?
MOORE: His job he is he actually has a fascinating background. He’s a former CEO of AT&T, for CEO of Eli Lilly. The President brought him to also head up the global AIDS initiative and now he’s also the person in charge of, you know, all foreign aid.
And so he’s looking at all the different foreign aid issues that exist, where is all the money going, how effective is it, which nations are, you know, aren’t receiving as much as they should. All those issues are being handled in many cases by Ambassador Tobias.
LAMB: And you are working directly for him?
LAMB: Have you met the President?
MOORE: Not yet, not yet.
LAMB: Do you expect to?
MOORE: Well, in fact, I met the President briefly when I was with the Office of Homeland Security. But this time around we do expect to meet the President. In fact, with the White House Fellowship, from what I’ve been hearing there’s at least two or three times that we actually have lunch with the President.
That’s actually one of the great things about the White House Fellow experience. In addition to the work placement you’ll get a chance to meet the senior-level folks in the government and also senior-level CEOs, non-profit leaders. But you’ll meet every Cabinet secretary, you’ll meet the President, have, you know, Vice President, and not just meet them but have lunch with them, have a private session with them where you can ask them whatever questions, they can give you whatever answers and it’s all off the record.
LAMB: All right, here we not much time left. At age 27 all this already accomplished
what’s next after the White House Fellowship and that last’s a year?
MOORE: You know at this point it’s really still very much up in the air. I know I really enjoyed finance and I can see myself, you know, going back to do that or maybe doing some work in the, you know, in the public sector as well.
I’m doing a lot of work now with the kids involved in the justice system with grand (ph) family housing in Baltimore.
The only there’s a couple of things that I definitely know, one is that I want to make a different and I want to be a public servant in some way?
LAMB: Going to run?
MOORE: Well, see. I mean right now right now I’m not thinking about it but it’s definitely something that I won’t rule out for the future?
LAMB: Maryland your base?
MOORE: Definitely and here’s the reason why. In addition to loving it and I think it’s the greatest state in the country, after my father passed again, he was a popular, you know, radio and television personality in the area that was probably the toughest time in my family, especially for my mother
MOORE: 1982 because at that time she was a 31-year-old widowed mother of three. And the support that we received not only from family and friends but from Marylanders, people who reached out from political leadership to business leadership to regular citizens who just knew my father and loved my father and wanted to just be helpful and supportive. I will never ever be able to repay Maryland and Marylanders for the support that they gave my family when we needed them most. But I’m going to give it a shot. I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I owe them a great deal.
LAMB: Sounds like a politician.
MOORE: I’m sincere.
LAMB: I didn’t say.
MOORE: No, no. And I’m not saying politicians are not sincere. I’ve been fortunate I’ve had a chance to work with some great politicians.
But I feel it deeply in my heart and not one one thing I’ve always been raised to believe is if someone does something nice for you you have to return it, you have to pay forward and I will do that from now on.
LAMB: As you know, it’s been written and your friends have kidded you about being Mr. President.
MOORE: Yes, no, and I and I think it’s probably more so because I’ve been class president throughout that time.
LAMB: How many years class president?
MOORE: Six years.
LAMB: Regimental commander for how many years?
MOORE: One year, a one-year job and, again, you know, whether it be through politics, you know, we’ll see but I know public service is something I’m devoted to.
LAMB: You know the famous picture of Bill Clinton in the Rose Garden with John Kennedy when he was Boys Nation
LAMB: Do you think of that when you’re going around when you’re in these positions? Do you look around that White House and say, this is pretty nice?
MOORE: I look around the White House and say, you know, some really amazing men have walked through those walked through those walls (ph) and amazing men and women have walked through those gates and I’m just honored to be there.
LAMB: Who would be a politician in your mind in history that you admire the most?
MOORE: I think on a local level there’s two, both Mayor Schmoke and, again, I explained why. He’s just a phenomenal man and he cares
LAMB: Former mayor of Baltimore.
former mayor of Baltimore, cares deeply about the city.
Michael Bloomberg up in New York. I think he’s doing a fantastic job and I think he’s there for the right reasons, he cares. And he doesn’t have to be doing this, he chooses too. And I think even some of the initiatives that he’s put forward have shown real vision and real leadership.
I think historically, especially on a national level, is Harry Truman. I like to look at leaders and presidents but just, you know, all leaders in terms of looking at their legacy, what have they left. And when you look at the legacy of Harry Truman and again, remember this is a person in 1951 had a 23-percent approval rating amongst the people.
But look at the legacy that he left, I mean the creation of the National Security Council, the consolidation of the Defense Department, World War II, the Korean War, the desegregation of the armed forces, the desegregation of the federal services, unemployment was, you know, as close to zero as we’ve had in history. I mean he had some truly revolutionary ideas and policies put into play that are still in existence now.
So I think I look at that, I look at his legacy and think to myself you know, we were lucky to have him.
LAMB: Wes Moore, we are out of time and I thank you.
MOORE: I thank you. You’re welcome.