Thursday, October 20, 2016

Poverty Conference 2016: Wes Moore

Today I had the pleasure of welcoming about 700 community members to the Junior League of Longview's 2016 Poverty Conference featuring best-selling author, entrepreneur and television host Wes Moore in our Belcher Center. I'm proud that LETU is a sponsor of the conference and that the initial poverty conference was the idea of former LETU professor Dr. John Fezzell.

Moore is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Moore is also the founder and CEO of BridgeEDU, the host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and executive producer and host of PBS's Coming Home with Wes Moore.

Poverty is a challenge for Longview and East Texas, one that has direct links to crime rates and quality of life. I applaud the efforts of the Junior League for taking ownership of this conference and convening leaders from a variety of agencies to coordinate their efforts to address poverty here in East Texas.

Keynote Wes Moore shared his testimony and some of the lessons he has learned along the way, about how making choices led to the difference between success and failure.

Growing up in a single-parent household, first in Baltimore, Maryland, then in the Bronx in New York, Moore pushed limits, defied authority, ran into trouble with the police, and wound up in handcuffs for the first time by the age of 11. By 13, he was sent to a military boarding school in Pennsylvania. Today, he is a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, author and business leader.

What a transformation!

In his presentation, Moore described the importance in his own life of being mentored and surrounded by people who believed in him before he could believe in himself. He described his mentor as someone "willing to help you carry your dreams until your shoulders are broad enough to carry them yourself."

Moore emphasized the importance of having high expectations of our youth and helping youth see a future that is bright. He said he learned in the U.S. Army that you can't hit a target you can't see. He said that holds true for our youth, as well. We must set expectations for youth and help them put their eyes on the target.

Our strategic plan calls for LETU to serve our local neighborhood. We know education is a key to fighting poverty. How might we contribute to the fight here in Longview?