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Love Letter to the Duke Benches

by Sydney Weiner

At the last stop of the Duke tour, guides talk about study abroad and advising before we share our “why Duke” stories. The “why Duke” is one of my favorite parts of the tour because it gives me a chance to reflect on how much I’ve loved my time here. Earlier last semester, there were too many tour guides for the group we had and so my friend Camden and I did a tandem tour. He said that his “why Duke” could be encapsulated in the benches—namely, that they foster the community that makes Duke so special. He told me that he had heard the metaphor from another tour guide. As I thought more about the benches, I realized he was right, and that my “why Duke” could be encapsulated in the benches as well. And with the Valentine’s Day edition coming up and no boyfriend in sight (maybe next year!) I've decided to finally tell the benches, instead of the dozens of prospective students on my tours, how I feel about them.


Dear Duke Benches,

Are you a quirky poster or stolen trinket from a frat? Are you a wooden sign that has a joke for mothers about Target-grade wine on it? Because you make this house a home. You give us a sense of identity. As we paint you, whether it be with the name of our LLC, Quad, or freshman year dorm, we do so with all the different friends we’ve made here, reminding us of how we are equal parts similar and different. You’re enduring, having been a Duke tradition for decades. You’ve seen every season, as Duke’s student body (and plots of grass on the quad) have turned over multiple times. Most importantly, though, Duke Benches, you give us a place for community, for joy, for celebration, even for love – the bench where two students kissed can attest. Who knows how many hours you’ve spent listening into our conversations, keeping all of our jokes, confessions, and secrets safe. (By the way, I’m still sorry for accidentally hitting you last week. It was purely a reaction to a funny story my friend told me–I’m sure you would have acted the same). In times of contemplation, when I need somewhere to sit and reflect on life, you’re right there in the middle of it all, ready to give me space. You give me perspective–I know that when I sit at you and look out at the beautiful quad in front of me, I’m just one of thousands of students, most of whom I will never meet, who have sat here and found comfort in you like I have. Duke Benches, you really know how to give me perspective while making me feel special.


When we win the Duke-UNC game at home (please don’t let my friends’ tenting have been for nothing) or a national championship and we burn one of you, surrounded by our cheering friends and bemused local fire officials, we will feel a profound happiness and hope and collective joy that is hard to come by. And the new Duke bench that comes after you rises like a phoenix from the ashes, reminding us that there is always more to do and to achieve. 


You might think you’re unappreciated, Duke benches. You might think that when we pass by you, you go unnoticed. That your constant loyalty and dedication means nothing to us. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Without you, Duke Benches, we wouldn’t be Duke. We simply couldn’t be. Thank you for all you’ve given us. For all you have given me.

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