Our Commitment to Mission and Its Relationship to Recent National Events

After a long and often divisive eighteen months, the 2016 presidential campaigns have come to their conclusion.  While the election is over, many within our community – regardless of political affiliation – find themselves trying to come to terms with the negative tone and discourse that preceded—and now follows—this significant moment in our nation’s democratic process.

Over the course of the next weeks and months, many throughout our nation will continue to wrestle with the various issues that defined, and gave meaning to, this election season.  There will be many opportunities to reflect upon the themes that informed public opinion and the way these, in turn, informed voters’ decisions.  And the eyes of the entire nation will be, as they always are at times of significant change and transition, upon the newly-elected leaders who turn from the work of campaigning to the work of governing.
Almost as soon as the election concluded early Wednesday morning, both the President and the President-elect called for unity and underscored the importance of considering the needs of the entire nation, regardless of political affiliation.  As significant as the election process is—not only for our President, but for all leaders at every level—I believe this appeal serves as a reminder that though our elected officials may change, our fundamental mission as a Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic university does not.  We are a place whose members are committed to a set of specific values, values reflective not only of our unique mission as Gonzaga, but our relationship to and with the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church of which it is a part.
Therefore, let us continue to engage critically, thoughtfully, and respectfully with one another about those issues which this contentious election season has laid bare.  Let us appreciate that this election has in part been about voice – the voices of those with power, and the voices of the powerless and marginalized in our community, our nation, and our world.  Gonzaga exists to educate students for lives of leadership and service for the common good.  The Catholic concept of “the common good” is rooted in a belief in the dignity of all persons as created by God; the project of building and maintaining a true democracy, as a shared project in which all people are considered equal, is also rooted in this same concept.  So even as we give voice to our perspective, let us appreciate, respect, and seek to understand the voices of others who do not share that perspective.  Let this not occur in the abstract, but in the decisions we make on a daily basis, made manifest in our behaviors with each other.
In so doing we affirm our commitment to the fundamental work of creating and maintaining a living, breathing democracy:  joining with our fellow human beings in the creation of a nation that recognizes and affirms the intrinsic dignity of all people, and seeks to ensure that these United States – imperfectly, yet persistently – continue to shine as a beacon of light, hope, and opportunity for all people who seek it.
May God continue to bless us all.

Thayne M. McCulloh, President
Gonzaga University
November 10, 2016