Air Force Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria delivered a message to cadets at the academy Friday: Racism will not be tolerated.
Silveria had gathered cadets and staff members to denounce racism following an incident at the Academy's preparatory school in which racial slurs were found scrawled on dormitory message boards.
He told cadets that if they can’t treat other people with "dignity and respect," then they should simply “get out” of the Air Force Academy. It was a blunt message, but one Silveria thought important for his students to hear.
“It’s the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing,” he said. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.”
His words carry some weight.
Silveria took over as the superintendent of the school just last month, and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said at Silveria’s appointment ceremony he couldn’t think of a better man for the job.
“When it came time to pick the next superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria was the obvious choice,” he said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I don’t believe we have an officer serving in the Air Force today with more combat time, more joint credibility, or more operational understanding of the art of modern war.”
Silveria has spent 32 years in the Air Force and logged nearly 4,000 hours of flight time throughout his career, including flying combat missions over Iraq and the Balkans.
Prior to serving as superintendent at the academy, Silveria was deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command and deputy commander of Central Command’s Combined Forces Air Component in southwest Asia.
Silveria, himself, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree.
He has received widespread praise for his comments denouncing racism, and a video of the speech posted on the Air Force Academy’s Facebook page has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.
The Air Force says it has launched an investigation into the slurs left on the message boards.