Common book program creates discourse on diversity

The Other Wes Moore will be read by all undergraduates at George Fox this fall.For a second straight year, all incoming undergraduate students at George Fox University this fall will be invited to engage in a discourse about diversity on campus through the vehicle of a common book program.

This fall, all undergraduates who join the school’s Christian college campus in Newberg, Ore., will receive a copy of Wes Moore’s New York Times Bestseller The Other Wes Moore, which contrasts the lives of two kids with the same name who grew up in the same decaying city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow and business leader. The other ended up serving a life sentence for murder.

Joel Perez, dean of transitions and inclusion at George Fox, said the goal of the common book program is twofold – to create a common academic experience for the entering class of first-year students and to create a discourse about diversity on campus.

“The committee felt this book was ideal because it addresses issues of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity facing our society and paints a realistic picture of the complexities of poverty in America and the role education can play in breaking the cycle of poverty,” Perez said.

About 'Wes Moore'

The book came about after a December 2000 issue of the Baltimore Sun featured two contrasting stories – a piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship, and a series of articles about four young men who allegedly killed a police officer, one of whom was also named Wes Moore.

According to the book’s website, author Moore “couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper.” He decided to write the other Moore, asking the questions “Who are you?” and “How did this happen?” The letter led to a correspondence and relationship that has lasted for years.

What the author discovered was the fact both boys had grown up in the same neighborhood, had difficult childhoods, and had run into trouble with the police. Their lives diverged, however, based on the pivotal decisions they made and the people they listened to.

Ultimately, the book “tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a challenging and, at times, hostile world,” according to the book’s website. The site also states that the “author is passionate about examining the roles education, mentoring and public service play in the lives of American youth.”


During George Fox’s orientation in late August, the university will host a session to explore the theme of the book. In addition, the school’s first-year seminars will use either all or part of the book to facilitate discussion. There are plans to use the book in writing courses as well.

As part of its goal to further diversify its campus population, George Fox offers the Act Six leadership and scholarship initiative, an urban scholarship program for minorities. Launched by the Portland Leadership Foundation, Act Six seeks to develop urban leaders to be agents of transformation on campus and in their home communities. Since the program’s inception, five cadres of ethnically diverse and mostly first-generation, low-income Act Six scholars from urban Portland have enrolled at George Fox.