After racial slurs were found written on message boards at the Air Force Academy prep school, superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria didn’t waste any time delivering a message about diversity to the school’s 4,000 cadets.
As the students stood at attention, Silveria gave an inspiring talk about “the power of diversity of race and general,” while blasting the unknown student (or students) who wrote the words “go home n*****r” on white boards outside of cadet’s rooms.
“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or with different colored skin with respect, then you need to get out.”
To drive the point home, Silveria asked students to take out their phones and shoot video of him repeating the message, so it always remains top of mind.
Beyond addressing the incident, Silveria also urged students to have a “civil discourse” about the state of race relations in the country, reminding them that it was the differences among them (and all of us) that ultimately make us strong.
“I would be naive and we would all be naive to think to think everything is perfect here,” he said. “We would be naive to think we shouldn’t discuss this topic. We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country – things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protest in the NFL. … We come from all races. We come from all backgrounds [and] gender … The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That’s a much better idea than small thinking.”