There’s so much MORE to talk about. That’s how I’ve felt recently when I’ve seen a Duke-related article or heard about a new major campus conversation. It seems we’re at a point at which the most shared stories and the most talked about campus discussions are either a) critical or negative about someone or some group or b) focused on the same few topics or people as always. Of course, this is certainly not a challenge unique to Duke. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work together to fix it.
The heart of Duke students—what people care about on a daily basis and what inspires and encourages them—is often left out of these dominant campus narratives. For all aspects of Duke, and human nature for that matter, that can be frustrating, there is also an incredible amount of beauty to be admired, appreciated and encouraged. For example, rather than solely discussing the issues we see in the Duke social scene, we could more readily take note of the groups—House Councils, Duke University Union committees, cultural groups and so many others—actively working to create a social scene that is inclusive, welcoming and diverse. Instead of lamenting the “Duke bubble,” we could step back and consider the dozens of service groups and departments at Duke that maintain long-lasting partnerships with Durham organizations. In fact, by drawing more attention to these things, we end up driving the change we seek.
In my experience at Duke, as I’m sure many of you can relate to, I have been so inspired to intersect with people doing amazing things… things that probably won’t ever be a cover story at Duke. There’s Raphael, the Master of Public Policy friend of mine from Nairobi who has been appointed to advise governments in nations around the world on practical solutions to the global youth unemployment crisis. Ironically, global news outlets regularly acknowledge his work while not many even know of him at Duke. There is my roommate, who spends countless hours every day heading up the Duke and North Carolina Central University Army ROTC program, working to inspire our future military leaders to be strong both physically and morally. There are the 100 senior mentors who volunteered, with no incentive of personal benefit, to commit to Senior-Freshman Connection, Duke’s new senior-freshman mentoring program. There are my dedicated peers on Class Council who led this and about 10 other newly created Duke initiatives and programs this year. There are the 70 service groups whose commitment to the local community inspired me continuously while I was involved with Duke Partnership for Service. As just one example among these groups, the volunteers of Adopt-A-Grandparent run an excellent initiative that provides one-on-one personal support for disabled elderly individuals in Durham on a regular basis. And, honestly, giving one example truly doesn’t do these 70 groups justice.
These are people actively DOING things… big things… in the campus, local and global communities. Now, I don’t suddenly expect these types of things to become front-page stories in The Chronicle, nor do I think we should wait for that. Rather, it takes an effort from each of us to go beyond the status quo conversation pieces and learn about one another without feeling awkward talking about our involvements. It takes us affirming one another when we see something excellent being done, no matter how ordinary it might seem to that person. It takes us reaching beyond our ordinary social circles to learn about other types of individuals and their experiences. It takes us giving praise—and not necessarily publically—to those that would never dream to claim it for themselves. Most students may not even know who these people are or what they’re spending their time with. But, I can tell you one thing: The people they are impacting know exactly who they are, and that makes all the difference in the world.
So, here’s to you, Raphael. Here’s to you, roomie. Here’s to you over in The Loop, Javon, because a) you’re a boss, b) you’re constantly making people smile over there and c) you’ve known my order since freshman year. You should know that you all—and countless other people at Duke—are making a great and noble impact on this campus. You may never be part of the next campus debate or campaign or discussion, but you are what make this Duke community an extraordinary family. You deserve the utmost attention and the highest respect. Here’s to you.
P.S. One practical way to share the love and appreciation to Duke seniors who will be graduating in May: Fill out this form and Senior Class Council will deliver your message. We got about 400 messages in only a couple of days!
Andrew Leon Hanna is a Trinity senior and the senior class president.