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Wes Moore: There is potential in every student

Wes Moore was 11 years old when he first felt handcuffs on his wrists. But he ended up a Rhodes Scholar, a White House Fellow, a TV show host … and, on Monday, the keynote speaker at the final General Session of NSBA’s Annual Conference.

Moore’s story is well-known in public schools. His book, “The Other Wes Moore,” has been used across the country as an all-school read. In the book, he compares his path in life to that of another man – also named Wes Moore – who came from the same neighborhood and also had early scrapes with the law. The other Wes Moore is a convicted murderer.

While everyone has existential questions about paths not taken, decisions involving education are more crucial for some, Moore argued. Sure, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg were all college dropouts. But if their businesses had failed, they still would have been “just fine.” Others who forsake education play a much riskier game with their destinies, he said.

Education is the business of believing in every student’s potential, even when those students have yet to believe in themselves, he said.

“I admire your work because you know we can’t cherry-pick our way to success. You welcome them all. You fight for them all. You know that every one of our children need to understand their own personal greatness.”

Stepping away from the wrong path can be an extended process, Moore said. He told stories of adults who helped him with kindness, but no event provided an epiphany. Children just need to have adults not give up on them, he said.

That’s why school board service is a noble endeavor, he said. “We have to be loving in this work,” he said. “We have to be fearless … conscientious …and inclusive. Your work matters.”

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