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Buckland selectman’s essay picked for ‘This I Believe’

Photo by Jane Beatrice Wegscheider

Buckland Selectman Cheryl L. Dukes, near the Town Hall mosaic.

Photo by Jane Beatrice Wegscheider Buckland Selectman Cheryl L. Dukes, near the Town Hall mosaic.

BUCKLAND — In 2007, Cheryl L. Dukes wrote an essay about living in a small town as a project for a media class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

On Friday, that essay will be featured on “This I Believe,” on SiriusXM satellite radio’s Bob Edwards Show, and on National Public Radio’s “Bob Edwards Weekend.” The essay can’t be printed here until after the broadcasts.

“It was a real blast from the past,” said Dukes, who became a Buckland selectman four years after writing the essay.

“When I sent it out in 2007, I had worked really hard to get it published. And I was disappointed when it wasn’t.”

So Dukes was surprised to get an email asking if she would like to read her 5-year-old essay for broadcast on the program. In addition, her essay and photo will be featured on the This I Believe website: http://thisibelieve.org

The essay is called “I Believe in Knowing When You’re Home,” and Dukes wrote it about her feelings for her community. “Mostly I talked about growing up in the military,” she said. She was born in Mount Holly, N.J., and grew up in Portsmouth, N.H., near the Pease Air Force base, where her dad was stationed, but traveled with her family to wherever her father was transferred.

“With American society, there’s very little thought given to what ‘home’ is or means,” said Dukes. “I knew I was missing something others had, but I didn’t know what I didn’t have, until I found it. ... Growing up in the military meant the connections were constantly broken and remade with each transfer and introduction into a house, neighborhood, school system, community, region, and culture. ... Having an active-duty military parent required a friendly detachment — a hello-goodbye mentality of coming and going.”

“My small town life has shown me that home is more than a structure to protect yourself from the elements. Home requires community, caring and connection,” she said.

Dukes moved from Northampton to Buckland in 2001.

“When (UMass teacher B.J. Roche of Rowe) gave us this assignment, I told her I was going to get this published,” said Dukes. “Who knew it would take this long? But it finally happened.”

Dukes said she was told the essay had been on a “waiting list.” She said outreach director Mary Jo Gediman told her between 250 and 500 essays are received for the “This I Believe” segment each week.

“This I Believe” is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by iconic newsman Edward R. Murrow. From Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson and Helen Keller to corporate presidents, cab drivers and secretaries, the show gave people a few minutes in which to share their guiding principles.

Dukes had to read and record her essay for the program, along with her reflections on the essay she wrote years ago.

Dukes said that, as a selectman, the real value of the essay seems even more tangible to her now.

When asked how her perspective has changed over time, Dukes remarked, “When I was reading it, I felt the same (about the community) — only more.”

She said her feelings about the town are “even so much greater than what I knew back in 2007.”

“Buckland and the whole West County area has been through a lot since 2007 — the ice storm, Tropical Storm Irene, the ... recession and the slow recovery,” she said.

She recounted the recent “Creative Community Commonwealth Award,” the state Cultural District designation and the filming of a major feature film as examples of statewide and national attention the area is getting.

“This is such a great place to live,” she said.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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