The head of the Air Force Academy had a powerful message for his students on Thursday after racial slurs were found on campus.
“If you’re outraged by those words then you’re in the right place,” Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said during a five-minute address to the academy’s 1,500 staff members and 4,000 students. “You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being.”
The Washington Post reports the address came after five black students living in the dormitories found racial slurs written on the message boards on their doors. The students are cadet candidates and go to a preparatory school on the academy’s campus. The school has around 240 students and prepares candidates for admission to the Air Force Academy.
Silveria was blunt about his intolerance of discrimination on campus. “If you can’t treat someone from another gender with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another race, or different color skin, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
He also emphasized that “small thinking and horrible ideas” had no place at the academy.
The situation first came to light after Tracye Whitfield, the mother of one of the five students posted a photo of the message – a racial slur and the words “go home” – on Facebook, according to the New York Times.
“It’s a nerve-racking feeling,” Whitfield told a news station in Colorado Springs, near the Air Force Academy and its preparatory school.
Even though the incident happened at the prep school and not at the Air Force Academy itself, Silveria stressed that it was still relevant to everybody on campus.
“Some of you may think that that happened down at the prep school and doesn’t apply to us,” Silveria said. “I would be naïve, and we would all be naïve, to think that everything is perfect here.”
Although Silveria’s speech has gone viral and has resulted in him being praised for his advocacy of treating everyone with mutual respect, he said he made the speech to show his students that it was their duty to unite “as an institution protecting these values,” according to the Post.
Some have compared his speech with what they wish they would hear from those currently in power and have even suggested Silveria run for office one day:
Gen. Jay B. Silvera – LEADER, PATRIOT, AMERICAN…Yes, this is how it’s supposed to be…take note. #SILVERA2020!!!
— Jeff (@sosorryworld) September 29, 2017
This is what power, leadership, and advocacy looks like…. Excellent words from Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria! https://t.co/4BmjKZCYgx
— Colin Cole (@ColinCole91) September 29, 2017
You can watch the full speech here: