Long before he became a decorated veteran in Afghanistan, a White House Fellow, a prominent CEO, and more, Wes Moore was a kid born in the Baltimore area in the 1970s. His story is a story of triumph over obstacles.

Just before Wes turned 4, his dad died. His mom moved with Wes and his sisters to live with their maternal grandparents in the Bronx. Wes’ mom, having grown up in the Bronx, saw that crime and poverty had gotten even worse since she left — and she feared the risks her son faced as a young Black male with no father. She decided that instead of the free local public schools, she would scrape together tuition for the independent Riverdale Country School. Unfortunately, the affluent peers and safe environment were not enough to keep Wes from petty crimes, bad grades, and disciplinary problems by the time he was 13.

Terrified for her son, Wes’ mom decided in 1991 to send him to an even more expensive boarding school out of state. To pay for this, as Wes later wrote, his grandparents sacrificed their retirement and spent “decades of savings and mortgage payments” on tuition at Valley Forge Military Academy.

Valley Forge was tough, but it changed Wes’ life trajectory. He went on to Johns Hopkins where he earned a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. Today, he is the Governor of Maryland, only the third Black person ever elected to be governor of a state, the first ever in Maryland’s history, the only currently sitting Black governor, an oft-discussed potential future Democratic nominee for President.

The flip side of this story of Wes Moore as triumph is a darker story of tragedy.

In his 2010 book The Other Wes Moore, the now-Governor wrote about how he read in the Baltimore Sun about another young man named Wes Moore. The same year that Westley Watende Omari Moore won his Rhodes Scholarship, Wesley John Moore began serving a life sentence for murder at Jessup Correctional. The other Wes Moore, Wesley John, had much in common with Westley Watende. They both grew up with little money and no father; was also a child of 1970s Baltimore; and was also in trouble with school and cops by his early teens. Both of their moms tried changing schools: in the case of the other Wes Moore, from the catastrophically bad Northern High School (which was later closed) to the slightly less bad Perry Hall High School (currently ranked in the bottom third of Maryland schools).

Neither man is yet 50 years old (as of 2023).