A Tale of Two Leaders (UPDATED)
Who is this U.S. Air Force general who created such a stir with his powerful message to Air Force Academy (AFA) cadets – and, indirectly, to a national audience — against hatred and prejudice, about treating people “with dignity and respect,” and if they cannot do so, to “get out.”
Please scroll to the bottom of the page to find out.
This is called leadership.
It is not a message blaming both sides, definitely not a message that there may some “fine people” among the perpetrators.
They are not the words of the president of the United States after the Charlottesville tragedy.
They are the words of a man of honor, duty country after a few U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) preparatory students scrawled racial slurs on the dormitory message boards of five African American cadets at the Academy’s Preparatory School, North of Colorado Springs.
These are the words Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria used addressing some 5,500 people, including all 4,000 cadets Thursday so they could hear one message: “Treat people with dignity and respect — or get out.”
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” said Silveria. “That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at USAFA and has no place in the United States Air Force.”
He referenced the current race issues across the country, to include Charlottesville, Ferguson and the protests in the National Football League, and gave an example of a recent forum the Dean of Faculty hosted for cadets to discuss Charlottesville.
Silveria talked about the power of diversity.
“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.”
Silveria left cadets with what he called his most important thought on the subject.
“If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he emphatically said. “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
Please listen to the entire message below.
Proud of my U.S. Air Force.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, who recently became the Academy’s Superintendent, has every academic, combat, flying, professional and character qualification one would ever dream to see in an Air Force leader.
An Air Force Academy graduate himself, with a bachelor of science degree, Silveria raked up nearly 4,000 hours of flight time during his 32-year career, making him one of the Air Force’s most experience pilots.
Those flight hours include flying aircraft such as the F-15, HH-60 Pave Hawk and the new F-35 (below), and combat sorties over Iraq and the Balkans.
Then-Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria prepares to exit the cockpit of an F-35A Lightning II at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 10, 2016. (A1C Kevin Tanenbaum/Air Force)
Silveria has served as the vice commander at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and has played a significant role managing the war against the Islamic State as deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, according to the Air Force Times.
Additional academic and professional education includes a Master’s Degree in Social Science, Air Command and Staff College, National War College and a Senior Executive Fellow at Harvard University.
Speaking to the Air Force Times several weeks before his “heart-to-heart talk,” Silveria already gave some hints as to how he would be running his Academy and what he expected of the future officers.
The academy needs to challenge its cadets to learn critical thinking, Silveria said, and that will include studying the humanities.
Thinking of sexual assault and harassment issues that have plagued the Air Force in recent years, Silveria told the Times that the academy will continue to strengthen its sexual assault prevention and response programs.
Referring to his cadets, Silveria said, “They don’t have to just adhere to the standards about sexual harassment and sexual assault…They have to then go out and be officers and commanders, and they have to go out and teach, as well as handle the culture of the organizations … that they’re responsible for. That is the next step in building that next level of awareness.”
On Thursday, the general delivered an even stronger message on racism and prejudice. (Above)
The Washington Post concludes a piece on the general with an interesting thought, “Silveria has been widely praised for his leadership, with some suggesting he should run for office one day.”
Our country sorely needs people like Silveria in national leadership positions.