In the wake of racial slurs scrawled on an Air Force Academy prep school message board, the superintendent of the academy stood all 4,000 cadets at attention and delivered a blistering speech on tolerance, telling them to record his words on smartphones so they won't forget them: "If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out."
Wearing a green camouflage uniform with three stars, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria repeatedly leaned forward at the lectern to deliver his message Thursday: "You should be outraged."
The cadets, chins in and chests out, were flanked in cavernous Mitchell Hall by 1,500 officers, sergeants, athletic coaches and civilian professors, The Gazette reports.
As Silveria delivered the stern, five-minute lecture, investigators interviewed cadet candidates at the prep school to determine who wrote "Go Home" followed by an epithet on message boards outside the rooms of five black students.
The Colorado Springs-area prep school, whose student body traditionally is comprised of more than 50% recruited athletes, gives cadet candidates a year of rigorous tutoring to help them meet the academy's strict academic standards.
"Security Forces are looking into the matter," Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in an email without elaboration, The Gazette reported.
In his remarks, Silveria referenced current race issues across the country, including the NFL protests.
He also noted a recent forum the Dean of Faculty hosted for cadets to discuss the white supremacist incidents that accompanied an August "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va.
“We received outstanding feedback from that session." he said.
The Gazette noted that in the military the use of racial slurs can lead to a court-martial and charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Silveria, who took command of the academy in August, said he thinks dealing with the racial slurs in public is important.
"I wanted to make it clear, this is not something I am keeping from anyone," he told The Gazette." He said ensuring a climate of "dignity and respect" is a "red line" that can't be crossed without severe repercussions.
In his speech, Silveria said discussions about race are important.
"We should have a civil discourse, that's a better idea," he said.
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