Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Work by Wes Moore - Book Review

Wes Moore (The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters, Spiegal & Grau: Random House, January 2015, 272 pages, $25.00/10.99) seems to be a man in a hurry, but at this point in his life, at age 36 with significant experience and no little accomplishment behind him, it's not certain where he's headed. His first book, The Other Wes (which I have not read) detailed the almost eery coincidences and parallels between the parallel lives of two men with the same name, growing up near each other in the same straightened circumstances, while one went to prep school, college, and the other went to prison. The present book emphasizes the nature of work and accomplishment in endeavors that are rewarding in both financial and socially beneficial ways. Moore has, at the youthful age of 36, had a remarkable career, missing only significant elective office to place him in promising position to seek election at the highest levels. To suggest his arc has been an attempt to achieve such ambitious goals would be cynical in the extreme. Meanwhile, Wes Moore has led an interesting, even inspiring, life worth reading about, learning from, and following.

Wes Moore

Wes Moore seems to have led a charmed life, but not without pain. After loosing his father early on, he was raised by a single mother and hard-working preacher grandfather of Jamaican ancestry. After encountering significant failure in a private school in Baltimore, Moore was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy in Paoli, Pennsylvania, where he struggled against authority until reaching a realization that he ought to give the school a try. Six years later, he graduated with honors as commander of the corps of cadets and then matriculated at Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated with honors. He was picked as a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford for a couple of years, picking up a degree and considerable knowledge and experience, before leaving for Afghanistan as a captain in the U.S. Army and a specialist on radical Islam. Following his tour of duty, he was tapped for a year as a White House Fellow, working for Condoleeza Rice in the State Department, before heading for several years as an investment banker in New York. At each stop along the way, Moore soaked up knowledge, experience, and expertise while always exuding charm and intelligence. He currently is host of his own show on the Oprah network and tours the country as a motivational speaker.

At a time when few Americans serve in the military, and perhaps even fewer politicians, Wes Moore integrates his varied experiences into a wise perspective on personal growth, American society, the role of the government for achieving good, and his own potential for making a difference. His outlook is optimistic, wholesome, visionary, and realistic. After experiencing a variety of ways to involve himself in making change serving those in need, he has, for the time being, chosen the media and the speaking platform as a way best to spread his view and keep himself before the public. Pairing his own experience with the profiles of people who have undertaken big tasks and (largely) succeeded at them by overcoming huge obstacles, Wes Moore suggests that individuals have more control over their futures than many believe, and that we are not controlled by our circumstances, but can make a difference through hard work, intensive learning, and optimistic goal setting.

Wes Moore's memoir The Work: My Seaarch for a Life that Matters (Spiegal & Grau/Random House, January 2015, 272 pages, $25.00/10.99) presents a picture of an able and thoughtful man headed toward a productive and worthwhile life. I want to like this book more than I do. Moore's assessment of the differences between himself and “the other Wes Moore” ring true to me. His constant acknowledgement of what he owes the multitude of successful men and women who have taken an interest in him, mentoring him along the way, his profiles of the successes and failures of those like him in education, business, and politics all breathe earnest commitment and believability. There is, however, something about this book that reeks of being a campgaign document. Moore's love of family, God, country, and the military all point to next steps leading somewhere important and meaningful while he remains patient enough within his ambition to wait to see where that will be. He exudes charm and intelligence in print and on television. What Wes Moore's next step will be, how far it will take him, what he will ultimately achieve all still lie somewhere in the future. I expect to keep watching to see where that might be. I read this book as an electronic galley supplied to me by the publisher through Edelweiss. I read it on my Kindle app.

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