On this day, November 22nd, one hundred three years ago, Doris Duke was born of Nanaline Inman Duke and James Buchanan Duke in New York City. The couple decided to raise her here in Hillsborough (Then often called South Somerville), and the rich young girl fell in love with her environment. It was this location she called home ever since. Her life was filled with adventure, expedition, livelihood, happiness, and celebration. But, like any other human, she also lamented, lost, experienced sadness and hurt. Whenever she needed reprieve from the turbulence of life, (whether overwhelming in a good or bad way), Miss Duke would retreat home, encompassed in 2,760 acres of familiar land, far from the inconveniences of fame and interested reporters.
Why, in the wake of its destruction, does it matter that today is Doris’s birthday? The answer is deceptively simple. Instead of thinking about Doris Duke as an image of fame and paparazzi, we can also consider her for who she was to Hillsborough. We talk about pride in our roots, but that also means we must honor our roots. Miss Duke serves as a magnificent example of using wealth in beneficial ways to all persons who have lived their lives in this area and went off to make a difference in this world. For instance, many of my own peers from years ago in high school talked about their ambitions to see the world and pursue grand careers that affect the lives of others. Doris was before my particular cohort’s time, but her story outlasts time. We all have the power within ourselves to make a name for our hometown here, and we all can find ways to impact the lives of others. Our names will be remembered not only by what we’ve done, but also by how we made others feel. Miss Duke’s legacy lives on in her father’s likeness; when I interviewed her former employees and friends, I realized how easy it was to connect with her selflessness and ambition to make others happy.
This year on Doris Duke’s birthday, the locals of Hillsborough, Somerville, Bridgewater, Raritan, and all localities across the globe can honor her legacy in two ways. Of course, you can choose to participate in the saving of her home #SaveDukeMansion by signing our change.org petition or donating to our funds at GoFundMe (or directly to our new account for DORIS), but there is more. To truly pay homage to the philanthropic icon herself and her undying spirit of generosity: take time to give to others. In the face of so many events happening everywhere, what better way to change the world than by changing one life at a time? This is especially true in being a part of the community. She longed for a community and a family. Maybe it’s time we show her that this is possible from wherever my dear readers are.
November 22nd. It’s just another day. But every day is only as meaningful as you make it. In this tumultuous time of betrayal and uncertainty, I think that showing her that people still care is the greatest way to honor her legacy. Why not start our own stories out right? History teaches us amazing things, after all. This is why it should never be allowed to be erased. Especially by the hands that were entrusted to preserve it. My advice for the DDCF and all its affiliates as of this lovely 103rd celebration? Start thinking of others instead of yourselves and your personal visions, because this is not meant to be about you. Everyone deserves to know they will always be cared about by someone so let’s keep her spirit alive in our selflessness and kindness. Happy Birthday, Doris Duke.