The Mission is a Call to Action

Michael Tanaka speaks at "Building a Bridge in Solidarity"

September 04, 2019
Michael Tanaka, GSBA President

On August 28th, members of the Gonzaga and Spokane community held a candlelight vigil "Building a Bridge in Solidarity" in support of immigrants and refugees at the southern border. GSBA President Michael Tanaka shared his reflections on how Gonzaga's Mission calls us to be and do more for the common good.  

The Gonzaga mission calls its community towards a purpose; something greater than graduation,  or showing up to class and being nice, the Gonzaga mission is centered on the Jesuit ideology of “magis”, doing more for the greater glory of God, the transcendent, Yahweh, he, she, it, whichever name you call it, it’s not about doing the best, the most, or the greatest, it’s about doing more than what you’re already doing, being more than who you already are. The Gonzaga mission is ultimately a call to action, promising to educate students to live out lives of leadership and service for the common good-  In November of 2017 after DACA was rescinded, President McCulloh released a statement on behalf of our university and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities prompting us all to labor for solidarity for and with the poor and marginalized of our society,  guided by the commitment to uphold the dignity of every person, to work for the common good of our nation, and to promote a living faith that works for justice. 

The Gonzaga mission calls its community towards a purpose; something greater than graduation,  or showing up to class and being nice

GSBA’s Student Body President Carlo Juntilla also released a statement to the entire university calling us to advocate for and with our DREAMers in our own GU community and communities abroad, to hold steadfast and remain civically engaged during that turbulent time in our nation’s history. While we may have forgotten these sentiments provided by past and present leaders of our community, their calls to action are not any less important now, because this turbulence has still yet to end. The separation of families is nothing new to the history that I come from- I am a fourth generation Japanese-American whose grandparents were incarcerated in Manzanar simply and solely because of their ethnicity. While they looked Japanese they did not speak Japanese, but it was the way they looked which ensured the way they were treated, and it was the way they were treated that caused an intergenerational trauma that lasts with my family today.

There is an ever greater need to embrace and to love our neighbor, “the other”, as ourselves. Dr. King preached an idea of equality that was founded on integration, where we should look to our neighbors for “brother and sisterhood.”, as to truly call someone our brother and sister, there has to be a deeply spiritual, humanized and transcendent understanding of the other; that we are different but can in many ways relate through our feelings and experiences of being equitably a part of the “human family”. He famously says: “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” Needless to say, there is work to be done- this kind of community is not created on the basis of complacency, this kind of community is created by action, measured by how it serves those in need- how we define advocacy and allyship, how we act in the face of injustice, how we speak truth into the face of power, but most importantly, how we can embrace the “other” and recognize the dignity of the human person. Many of these aspects are embedded within our mission statement to uphold these values for a lifetime. My only hope is to pass this on, to put this promise into practice and again pose a call to action for us all to come together. As Father Greg Boyle famously said, “And so the voices at the margins get heard and the circle of compassion widens. Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other.”