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Former White House speechwriter and Obama administration aide speaks at Courageous Conversations

By Lily Nichols

Jesse Moore, former speechwriter and aide for former President Barack Obama, visited Western on, April 24 to open up a discussion for students on how they can pave their own paths in their careers.

Moore, originally from Lynnwood, graduated from Western in 2005 with a major in political science and a minor in English. While at Western, Moore was the vice president of the Black Student Union, which was known as the African American Alliance at the time. At the April 24 event, called “Courageous Conversations”, Moore talked about how he went from working in admissions at Western post-graduation to landing a job in the White House.

Moore recalled a memory of when he heard a speaker in Fraser Hall. The speaker talked about politics and the civil rights movement during George W. Bush’s presidency. Moore said he asked a question about the disconnect between opposing viewpoints at the speaker event.

“It seems like we can’t hear each other anymore,” Moore recalled. “We’re looking at people who disagree with us like we’re another species. I’m not asking you to solve it, but what is the first step to get us towards a solution on that?”

While the speaker didn’t have an answer, Moore said the discussion got him motivated and inspired to get where he is today.

“That did get my brain cooking,” Moore said. “But I did start that work, kind of in earnest, at that moment.”

After the introductions, Moore was asked a series of questions by colleague Korry Harvey from Western. Questions ranged from how students can craft their own narrative, help clients deal with conflicts in the workplace and if there is hope for the future.

What Can Students Do To Craft Their Own Narrative?

Moore said students have to be authentic. He said everyone wants to seem like they have it altogether, but young adults need to be taught that people like curiosity.

“Do you want a 22-year-old know-it-all in your office?” Moore says. “Or do you want somebody who’s eager, who’s hungry and looking to learn?”

Moore says that employers respect it when you look at the world with wonder.

How Do You Help Clients Deal With Conflicts In The Workplace?

Moore is the founder of Common Thread Strategies, a company that specializes in message development, speechwriting and building bridges. The company works with organizations such as the New York Police Department, Pop Culture Collaborative and the National Basketball Association, just to name a few.

Moore talked about how the NYPD hired his company to help them with their messaging. The NYPD wanted to build trust within the community, but specifically people of color.

“I started telling them there’s a problem if the narrative you’re telling is not matching up with what they’re seeing in the streets,” Moore said. “You’re telling this grand story of transformation, they’ve got to see it, otherwise you’re going to do more damage than good.”

Now, Moore trains hundreds of cops every few months on public engagement, specifically how to build community and trust with the people that they work with, he said.

Is There Hope?

The question was asked in relation to the political climate that society sees today. Moore says that there is hope.

“Not to get too corny or meta, but it’s coming alive in your generation,” Moore says.

For Generation Z, terrorist attacks and violence have become more prominent.

“All of that has created a climate that is all you’ve ever known,” Moore says. “I’m talking to all the youngsters in the crowd. It’s all you’ve ever seen, it’s the only America you are familiar with where if you’re in a different party, you might as well be a different species. Where terrorist attacks are real and they can come to your front door. Where the schools that sit in are no longer safe – inherently safe.”

Moore said he understands why people don’t feel hopeful anymore, but he pointed out that he has seen young people lead marches, talk with maturity and dedicate their lives and careers to service at a high rate.

“If young people are not catching their chips and then walking away but are instead stepping into the system, are stepping towards the problem or running into the fire, then that gives me hope,” Moore said.  

Moore concluded the event by stating that he’s counting on the younger generation to repair the country and move it in the direction that it needs to go.

Moore will be speaking at Bellingham Public High Schools the rest of this week as a part of the Advancement Via Individual Determination program.

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