Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the head of the U.S. Air Force Academy, addressed a recent incident in which racial slurs were found written on the dormitory message boards of five African-American cadets at the preparatory school.

Appearing before the academy’s 4,000 cadets and 1,500 staff members, the General delivered a speech that made it clear that, to assume the issue was an isolated incident within the preparatory school would be “naïve.”  He went on to provide a simple message that will likely resonate beyond the walls of the Air Force Academy, and for many, beyond the metaphorical walls of the branch itself.

“If you can’t treat someone from another gender with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “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.”

The speech was prompted by messages found in the Air Force’s preparatory school that said, among other things, “go home,” followed by a racial slur on the boards outside African-American student’s rooms.  The 10th Security Forces Squadron has been tasked with an investigation into the incident, but thus far they have made no official statement regarding the matter.

In a nation that has seen divisions based on race and politics grow ever deeper in recent months, as well as concerted foreign efforts to capitalize on those divisions and sow further seeds of mistrust among Americans, General Silveria’s speech demonstrated a clear lack of tolerance for those who would disrespect their own military service, as well as the branch they serve in and their nation, by using graffiti and racial slurs to convey their closed-minded beliefs.

His speech acknowledges that these issues don’t occur in a vacuum, and the overall tension in the United States surrounding race permeates into military service as it does all things American.

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You can watch the speech below:

Image courtesy of YouTube