Renowned author and philanthropist Wes Moore visits The Hill School as first Tom Ruth Speaker of the academic year


Media: Ellinor Lagor '21

Photo by Elle Lagor ’21

On Tuesday night, critically acclaimed author, social entrepreneur, television producer and decorated U.S. Army combat veteran Wes Moore spoke to Hill’s student body as a part of the Tom Ruth Speaker Series. Moore addressed the uncertainty of the world and our role in making it better than how we left it. 

His presentation came after students and faculty read his book, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” over the summer.

“I thought the book was actually really interesting to see how the two Wes’ situations played out,” said Meena Ali ’23, who was excited in anticipation of his visit. “I want to hear the story. I like reading, but I want to be captivated by how he tells it in his voice.”

The decision to read “The Other Wes Moore” was made by the English Department before the book was assigned for the summer and before the heightened protests and unrest regarding racial inequality this past summer. Academic Dean Katy Hudak said this has been a possibility since as long as two years ago when Chief Strategy Officer Lynda Hamilton-Kirk told her about a connection she had with Moore’s office. 

“I had organized an all-school read of ‘The Other Wes Moore’ about 10 years ago at my former school,” Hudak said. “I was very enthusiastic about the prospect of doing so again at my new home.” 

Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement Officer Shelley Baumgarten collaborated with Moore’s team about a visitation date – a difficult task considering both Moore and Hill’s schedules. Teachers also agreed to assign “The Other Wes Moore” as a required read for the whole school. 

All the pieces fell together,” Hudak said, “until the pandemic hit.” The in-person event only recently became possible after Hill’s COVID-19 response came to fruition.

 “A lot of things had flared up at that point,” said Edward C. Congdon Instructor of English Ned Ide. “We knew it was important and necessary to give different voices and perspectives. This story is both extremely optimistic and incredibly tragic.” Ide continued on the book’s impact. “All literature is supposed to take us out of ourselves and somewhere else, so if this book is like a ship, then it’s an important ship to be on.”

“The Other Wes Moore, already a powerful account of the black experience in America, coupled with Moore’s recent talk, proved to be a potent message to Hill about the importance of empathy and our voices being heard. 

“It was extremely powerful and important for us to hear. Reading his book was amazing over the summer, but the message this time around was more potent and timely,” said Sasjha Mayfield ’21. Moore spoke at length about the unrest in America and our role in the creation of America’s future. “Being at Hill, we’re all tasked with so much,” Mayfield said. “Trying to navigate it all, asking yourself ‘am I fighting for the right things, am I doing this correctly, am I getting it right…’ Hearing him talk about it was just so validating and so helpful.”

The most important question in a world of COVID-19 and systemic racism, Moore said during his talk, is “Who did you choose to fight for, and did you fight for them when it mattered?”

Shortly after his talk, Moore attended a reception with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to answer student questions face-to-face. 

 “We’re in a crucial time,” Moore told the committee. “The type of adulthood you’re going to experience is being shaped now. There is no better time than now to actually be able to help shape the future.”