Air Force Academy head to cadets: 'If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out'

Update: The Air Force school announced in November that one of the victims of the racial slurs had written them as a hoax.

The superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy demanded tolerance Thursday in a passionate speech to his cadets — days after black students at the academy’s preparatory school found racial slurs written on message boards outside their rooms.

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, who runs the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., told his cadets that they “should be outraged, not only as an airman, but as a human being.”

Earlier in the week, “Go home” with a racial epithet was written outside the dormitory rooms of five black cadet candidates at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, the Air Force Times reported.

While the incident didn’t occur on his campus, Silveria nonetheless acknowledged, “I would be naive, and we would all be naive, to think that everything is perfect here.”

“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 protests in the NFL,” he added, noting the productive “civil discourse” that resulted from an organized discussion on campus about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August.

Silveria also extolled “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, we come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeups, all upbringing.”

“The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful,” he said.

As he wound down the speech, Silveria had straightforward advice for his audience, offering for his cadets to use their phones to record his closing message.

“If you need it and you need my words, then you keep these words,” he said. “And you use them and you remember them and you share them and you talk about them: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”

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