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Keynote Speaker Wes Moore Urges UMB Graduates to ''Make a Difference''

An Army officer, Rhodes Scholar, White House fellow, New York Times best-selling author, and entrepreneur, Wes Moore, MLitt, had much to tell the graduates of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) as the keynote speaker at commencement May 16.

In the process, he added another avocation: car salesman.

Likening a graduate degree to a shiny, expensive new car that goes 200 mph, Moore urged the graduates to take their degrees out for a spin, drive them "until the wheels come off" and "make a difference in the world."

It was among many messages from Moore, introduced by UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, as "an American success story."

Raised in a single-parent household in Baltimore, Moore was drawn toward trouble as a child, enough so that his mother eventually enrolled him in a Pennsylvania military school. This single, determined choice effectively changed the course of her son's life, a story Moore told in his book The Other Wes Moore.

The book details how two kids with the same name grew up in similar neighborhoods but met different fates -- one as a White House fellow; the other in prison for murder.

Moore's mother, wife, two sisters, brother-in-law, and 2-year-old daughter were in the audience at Baltimore Arena as Moore saluted the graduates. "Today's not about the graduation speaker," said Moore, 35, also a PBS documentarian who spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

"There's no one in that audience that came to see me or the people on the stage. They are here to see you! Today is all about you. But the bigger question is what will tomorrow bring?"

Moore became Johns Hopkins' first African-American Rhodes Scholar, served as a paratrooper and captain in the U.S. Army during a tour in Afghanistan, and then served as a White House fellow to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before becoming an entrepreneur and youth advocate. He said the question the graduates must face now is, "Who did you choose to fight for? Who do you stand up for?"

Moore told the graduates several inspirational stories. Of Cara Aley, who established American MoJo, which only hires single mothers living in poverty, to pay tribute to her mother for persevering under similar circumstances. He spoke of two vets, one a paraplegic, who formed Purple Heart Homes to build homes for other paraplegic vets. A big supporter of education, Moore spoke of a middle school principal who arrives at school at 6:30 a.m. each day to greet his students with "a hug and I love you."

He urged the graduates to see how many people they can impact, to make the world a different place than it would be without them.

"With the degrees you've attained and the institution you've graduated from, people are going to take everything you say seriously simply because you said it. So do something with your degree," he urged. "We're here to celebrate you today because we're going to honor what you're going to do tomorrow. Thank you for your example, but frankly thank you for your future."

Posting Date: 05/16/2014
Contact Name: Jill Yesko
Contact Phone: 410-706-3803
Contact Email: jyesko@umaryland.edu