Wes Moore, a U.S. combat veteran, bestselling author, Rhodes Scholar and former CEO of a national anti-poverty organization–made history on Wednesday when he was inaugurated as the first Black governor of Maryland.
With the crowd at the Maryland State House chanting his campaign slogan, "leave no one behind," the 44-year-old Democrat becomes only the third black person to be elected governor in the United States and the fifth overall to serve in the position.
Moore, who becomes the state’s 63rd to hold the office, was flanked by his family and was sworn in with a bible once owned by Maryland-born abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Moore also used a bible belonging to his late grandfather, Rev. Dr. James Thomas, the first Black minister in the history of the Dutch Reformed Church.
“As I stand here today, looking out over Lawyers’ Mall, at the memorial to Justice Thurgood Marshall, it’s impossible not to think about our history,” said Moore in his inaugural address. “We are blocks away from the Annapolis docks, where so many enslaved people arrived in this country against their will. And we are standing in front of a capitol building built by their hands.“
Moore and Lt. Gov., Aruna Miller, who became the state’s first South Asian woman to serve in the role, took the oath of office before a diverse crowd of thousands on a sunny day that was warmer than usual for January.
The inauguration ceremony itself was a mash-up of poetry, music and dance, which included the Morgan State University choir singing `God Bless America'; there was drumming and singing from a Puerto Rican music and dance troupe; and a local high school band played go-go and hip hop.
A host of political and other supporters were on hand for the occasion, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Maryland Congressman Kweisi Mfume, Chelsea Clinton, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, “Club Quarantine” DJ D Nice and music mogul Kevin Liles to name a few.
But the most well-known name there was Oprah Winfrey, who introduced Moore to the crowd before he took the oath of office. She said she met Moore in 2010 when she interviewed him about his New York Times best-seller, The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates. “I was so impressed even then by his integrity and his wisdom,” she said. “He was wise beyond his years. He knew who he was and he had a vision for who he intended to be.”
One of the new governor’s central points during his inaugural address was a proposal that every young Marylander have a chance to serve the state. "We will offer a service year option for all high school graduates. A year of service will prepare young people for their careers and provide our state with future leaders–public servants we desperately need."
He also pledged to reduce crime, keep violent offenders off the street, create economic opportunities for the disenfranchised and put Maryland on track generate 100 percent clean energy by 2035.
A Progressive Path
Moore’s own climb to public service has been fortuitous. He graduated with an Associate’s Degree from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 and then Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001. As a teenager, he interned for former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and went on to earn a Rhodes Scholarship, which took him to Oxford University in England.
Inspired by his mentors at military school, Moore served as a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Unit, including leading soldiers in combat in Afghanistan. He also served as a White House Fellow, advising on issues of national security and international relations.
Moore went on to write other best-selling books that reflect on issues of race, equity and opportunity, including his latest book “Five Days,” which describes the unrest and aftermath that followed the Baltimore police custody death of Freddie Gray in 2015.
Earlier in his career, Moore launched a Baltimore-based business called BridgeEdU, which reinvents freshman year of college for underserved students to increase their likelihood of long-term success. He has also worked in finance with Deutsche Bank in London and with Citigroup in New York.
Most recently, he led the anti-poverty Robin Hood foundation in New York, where he served for four years as CEO. During his tenure, the foundation distributed millions toward lifting families out of poverty.
He launched his gubernatorial campaign in 2021 and by the 2022 election season, he was seen as a clear frontrunner, gaining endorsements from former President Barack Obama, Winfrey and outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. He won in a landslide victory over GOP opponent Dan Cox, with many political watchers saying that he has brought new life into the Democratic Party.
Now, Moore aims to lead Maryland to a brighter future. "To work together, we must get to know each other again. To come together across lines of difference--both real and perceived--to build uncommon coalitions. Because the simple fact is that we need each other; we all have a role to play."