The centerpiece of the evening was speaker Wes Moore, best known for his New York Times best-selling book The Other Wes Moore, which the senior class read for the all-school read as freshmen. Moore is currently the CEO of the company Robin Hood, an anti-poverty, non-profit organization.
Speaking before the 5:00 p.m. Mass in the chapel, Father’s Club President Rich Ledbetter established the theme of the night: all are welcome.
“This year’s event was about welcoming all and all feeling welcomed. There’s a need for us to ensure that every member of the SLUH community experiences the full, robust experience of being at SLUH so that everyone, whether they have a father at home or not, feels welcome at the Father-Son banquet,” said Ledbetter. “If we are honest about the SLUH community, then we will recognize there are members of the community who do not have an active father at home. We need to accept our roles, of course, as fathers to our own children, but we also need to provide what fathers are to all the kids in the community. I think that having an active and engaged dad is essential, and it doesn’t always have to be your biological father.”
In his homily, the Rev. Paul Sheridan, S.J., talked about the importance of the relationship between a father and son and talked about his own relationship with his father. He then asked the sons to turn to their fathers and tell them why they love them and where they see God; then the fathers turned to their sons and did the same.
“I think there is reticence on both sides of relationships. It’s so important for a young man to understand his father’s love, and for a father to understand his son’s, and being men by nature, we are very reticent people, especially at that age,” said Sheridan. “Simple conversation is not sufficient enough to deepen the relationship, and I thought it was a prayerful moment where the father and son could engage at a level they are not used to in terms of exchanging their ideas and love for one another.”
Following the Mass, everyone gathered in the Si Commons for a dinner prepared by Kathy Hylla and Food Service Inc., which was followed by Moore’s speech.
During the hourlong speech, Moore emphasized the importance of father figures and how people can support others in need of a father figure. Moore also elaborated on some of the stories he tells in the book.
“Wes Moore’s message was that each of us in that room have a remarkable number of gifts, and we owe those gifts to others,” said Ledbetter. “I think there’s some tie-in between being ‘Men for Others’ and The Other Wes Moore; there’s a really clear message there.”
“When I read The Other Wes Moore as a freshman, I remember I was astonished how two people can have similar starts to life yet end up completely different from each other,” said senior Tony Romero.
“One quote from Mr. Moore’s speech that I think accurately represents his talk at the banquet is ‘for someone to care about the future of society, one must care about the future of each individual.’ He perfectly explained what community means—people being there for each other to help them grow.”
Moore’s speech also touched upon injustices he encountered while growing up in Baltimore.
“My favorite aspect of the speech was how it addressed the topic of injustices without blaming, judging, or politicizing,” said Physics teacher Paul Baudendistel. “It talked about how we need to figure this out together as a society, and he is clearly doing that with his Robin Hood project.”
Moore’s speech was followed by an immediate standing ovation, which impressed Ledbetter.
“I was very struck at how silent the crowd was and how they listened to him with rapt attention for the entire hour,” said Ledbetter. “The immediacy with which we got to our feet, it made me so proud of the SLUH community.”
The ovation was then followed up with a Q and A, where only two questions were asked in the short amount of time, but Moore went into each of them thoroughly.
“Wes Moore speaks with gravity and goes deep into conversation,” said Ledbetter. “I asked him about the other Wes Moore and John Penilla asked him about his Robin Hood foundation, and he didn’t give sound bites. He told us everything about it, and I thought it was wonderful to hear about both those things.”
While the banquet was mostly a success, there was one hiccup on Sunday: many students travelling home from the March for Life trip were not able to make it back in time. Ledbetter hopes that the SLUH community can learn from this and improve next year.
“The date for the banquet was picked before we had even thought about Wes Moore, and SLUH needs to learn a lesson from this experience,” said Ledbetter. “We need to have an evaluation of our calendars so that we never get in the situation again where the travel schedule of a significant event like the March for Life prevents many groups from coming to the Father-Son Banquet.”
With a strong message and good example of fatherhood, Ledbetter hopes that the Father’s Club can host more speakers similar to Moore in the future.
“I have enjoyed all of the Father-Son Banquets that I have attended. I believe that after this event, we should take these opportunities when the student and parent communities come together to make the most out of them, because our time with our children is precious,” said Ledbetter. “Celebration and laughter and joy is great, but so is taking them seriously to make sure that we have an impact.”