An Attitude of Gratitude for the Cal Lutheran Community

We are in awe of you. As it was last year, the College’s participation in Cal Lutheran Cares Day 2021 was a success. Because of our community’s generosity, we exceeded our goals with more than 140 donors and more than $176,000 in contributions. The College placed second of 22 participating units on campus on the event’s leaderboard!  We are grateful.

We could not have accomplished this feat without the participation of our devoted supporters in and outside the College. We received three challenge grants from: philanthropist Sue Swenson; The Bachofer Family in honor of Cynthia, Sylvia, Ernie, and Ruth Bachofer; and Dr. Laureen (Spinas ‘83) and Mr. Mica Hill. The Dean’s Advisory Council had its own challenge, led by Dr. Mary Ellen Cosenza, and they raised nearly $7,300. Their generosity played a significant part in the College surpassing its Cares Day objectives. 

College faculty, students, staff, alumni, and other benefactors also participated in pivotal ways. Some took time to record brief videos which appeared on College social media platforms; others made financial contributions, while others spread word of the College on their personal social media accounts. These contributions greatly benefit those at the heart of the College—our students and the programs which support their academic endeavors. So many shared their Cal Lu stories too, and we cherish them. 

Gratitude as a Way of Life 

Cares Day brings to mind the concept of gratitude and the impact this quality has on our daily lives. We remain immensely thankful for the individuals who contribute to the College’s success not only on Cares Day but throughout the year. 

The terms “gratitude”, “thankfulness”, or “gratefulness” emanate from the Latin word “gratus,” signifying something pleasing. Thought leaders from multiple perspectives and across history have pronounced the merits of gratitude for thousands of years. Of this attribute, the Greek philosopher Plato said, “A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things,” and Persian Poet and Sufi master Rumi uttered, “Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.” 

In Judaism, the Hebrew phrase “hakarat hatov” translates to “recognizing the good,” allowing followers of the faith to appreciate life’s blessings. I thought this was particularly fitting given that May is Jewish American Heritage Month, which I discuss further below. 

Those who embrace a practice of gratitude become mindful of the good in their lives and  experience various research-backed benefits including: 

  • Deepened friendships

  • Improved physical health

  • Enhanced psychological health

  • Increased empathy and reduced aggressive behavior

  • Better sleep 

I know we are all exhausted by the events during this unprecedented academic year. Yet, it is essential to recognize the good. Despite the hardships so many in our community have faced over the last twelve months, and there have been too many to count, we are grateful to our Cal Lu community. 

Communities Breaking Barriers yet Still Facing Discrimination 

In May we welcome two annual observances: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (AAPI) and Jewish American Heritage Month. Both examine and honor the many contributions of individuals from these communities to the nation. No matter one’s ethnic or religious background, all of us benefit from the ideals and actions of members of these communities. Practicing gratitude toward them is an essential complement to learning their stories and studying their contexts. 

Congress designated this month to pay tribute to the Asian Pacific Islander community "to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869.”* The workers who laid the railroad’s tracks were largely Chinese immigrants.  

Notable Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders include:

  • Virologist and physician Dr. David Ho, an eminent researcher who has studied AIDS and the coronavirus

  • Vice President Kamala Harris

  • Author and restaurateur Joyce Chen, who popularized the Chinese buffet 

  • U.S. Senator and Army Veteran Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono

  • Olympic Gold Medalist/Surfer/Actor Duke Kahanamoku

  • Writers Amy Tan, Mira Jacob, Khaled Hosseini, and Paul Yoon

  • Chinese American architect I.M. Pei, who designed the glass and steel pyramid at the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston

  • Musicians Yo-Yo Ma, Vanessa Hudgens, and Bruno Mars

  • Labor Leader Philip Vera Cruz

In 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed May Jewish American Heritage Month in conjunction with a resolution from the House of Representatives which stated the following:

“Resolved ... that Congress urges the President to issue each year a proclamation calling on State and local governments and the people of the United States to observe an American Jewish History Month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”

The first people of Jewish heritage arrived in New Amsterdam, presently the southern part of Manhattan, in 1654. Like their AAPI counterparts, they have made an impressive imprint across various arenas of the national landscape, ranging from academia, the arts, and literature to business and politics. Some noteworthy members are:

  • U.S. Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer

  • Albert Einstein

  • Writers Julie Orringer, Saul Bellow, J.D. Salinger, and Nicole Krauss

  • Linguist and Political Philosopher Noam Chomsky

  • Leonard Bernstein

  • Singers Bob Dylan, Idina Menzel, and Bette Midler

  • Former New England Patriot Julian Edelman

  • Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry

  • Actors Gal Gadot, Scarlett Johannson, and Natalie Portman

Members of these communities have often experienced bigotry, hatred, and discrimination throughout our nation’s history. In the late 19th century, a mob attacked and killed 19 Chinese residents in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. The developing anti-Asian sentiment of that era sparked the passage of the Page Exclusion Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which respectively stopped the arrival of Chinese women and laborers from China into the U.S.  

Animosity against Asians continued during World War II when the federal government placed around 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps along America’s West Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though many of these individuals held U.S. citizenship, government officials perceived Japanese Americans as a national threat due to their heritage. Even today, some Americans express prejudice toward these groups through physical violence, online harassment, or microaggressions. We have seen such discrimination persist following the Vietnam War, and COVID-related anti-AAPI prejudice and violence continue today. The alarming rise in hate crimes against AAPI communities were explored in last month’s blog

Similarly, according to Pew Research, 64% of Americans say Jews face at least some discrimination – a 20-percentage-point increase from 2016; the share saying Jews face “a lot” of discrimination has nearly doubled, from 13% to 24%. The data regarding AAPI experiences and threats towards Jewish Americans pushes the College to reaffirm our commitment to create an environment that provides for inquiry and social justice.   

Fostering Interdependence and Cultivating Inclusivity 

In alignment with our university and college mission statements, we work towards inclusive excellence, understanding, and engagement across our differences. Interfaith work is central to this responsibility. Indeed, activities of service and compassion, inspired by gratitude, offer a meeting place for people from different values perspectives to cooperate together. 

The College has shared resources, like the micro-syllabus on Asian American politics, with our faculty. The College offers several courses of study where students learn about diverse customs, traditions, and perspectives, which allow them to appreciate and expand their knowledge of differing cultures and societies.  

  • Asian Studies

  • Ethnic and Race Studies

  • Global Studies

  • Languages & Cultures

  • Philosophy

  • Religion and Theology 

Fostering a culture of thoughtfulness, tolerance, and caring benefits the College, its community, and society at large. Through learning and working together, we become attuned to the thoughts of those around us and aim to combat ignorance and divisive rhetoric through continued study as well as expressions and deeds that advance justice and gratitude for our similarities...and differences. 


 *Source: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month