Air Force Academy leader delivers powerful speech on race

  • The Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy, Lt Gen. Jay Silveria, gave an empassioned anti-rascism speech during lunch at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. He told cadets that if they are fascist that there is no place for them at the Academy and "Get out". The head of the Air Force Academy stood all his 4,000 cadets at attention to deliver a message on racial slurs found written on message boards at the academy's preparatory school. He delivered the same message to the preparatory school. Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

Associated Press
Friday, September 29, 2017

The leader of the Air Force Academy delivered a poignant and stern message on race relations in a speech to thousands of cadets after someone wrote racial slurs on message boards outside the dorm rooms of five black students.

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria warned students that he would not tolerate racism at the academy and invoked some of the racial tensions that have been gripping the country. At one point, he insisted that everyone in the audience take out their phones and record him so his message was clearly heard.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, get out,” he said as audience members looked on with rapt attention.

Air Force security personnel are investigating the incident after the slurs were discovered Tuesday. Racial slurs are illegal in the military and can bring charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Silveria said he called the families of the five prep school students who were the objects of the slurs.

His speech quickly became a widely viewed video online, coming in the aftermath of racial violence in Charlottesville and the debate about NFL players kneeling for the national anthem.

“We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what is going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville, Ferguson, the protests in the NFL,” he said.

Silveria took command at the school in August and has repeatedly told cadets and staff that his highest priority is ensuring a climate of dignity and respect.