Military Academy Leader Has The ‘Right Stuff’

A Personal Perspective

Heroes are not always those who rush into dangerous situations to save others from certain death. Sometimes a hero is simply someone who stands up to bullies, bigots and buffoons at a critical time.

Last week, that hero for honorable people everywhere was retired Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the US Air Force Academy. The general addressed an auditorium of cadets at the school after hateful slurs were written on the doors of five African-American cadets.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, get out,” said Gen. Silveria, who also referenced Charlottesville, Ferguson and the NFL protests. “We would be tone deaf not to think of the backdrop of what’s going on in our country.”

Silveria is walking the walk. Since taking over leadership of the Colorado Springs-based academy last summer, he has reportedly told students, faculty and staff repeatedly that his “highest priority is to create a climate of dignity and respect.” He told the gathering of students last week that he was deadly serious. So much so, in fact, that he told them to take out their phones and record his words.

Silveria, an alumnus of the school and veteran fighter pilot who served in the Middle East, told one publication after taking the helm of the school, “My red line is cadets who can’t treat others with dignity and respect.” He proved that last week.

The Air Force is said to be investigating the incident and one can almost bet that, if caught, the culprits will be disciplined or expelled. Forgetting his outstanding military service for a moment, Jay Silveria is a hero for decency.

He did not waffle about where he stands on bigotry and mistreatment. He said it out loudly and proudly. There was no “both sides” being wrong here. He knows which side is wrong and which side is the victim. This man is a leader.

Forget the Air Force Academy. This is presidential material. This is how we expect a leader to respond to crises, whether big or small.

Whether it’s to a natural disaster, racist groups intimidating or killing counter protestors or some lunatic shooting innocent children, people at a club or concert or any number of venues, we need leaders who say, “Not on my watch!”

True leaders pick the right side and stand up for it against all odds. They don’t flip flop and they don’t blame the victim(s). Students at the Air Force Academy, a very diverse campus, have plans for careers in the military. They will end up serving all over the world.

If some can’t tolerate racial and ethnic differences now, we don’t need them in the military. There is no place for such ignorance in the 21st century American military. Black people are here to stay. Get over it already. Immigrants are here, so help them live the American dream. LBGTQ people are here to stay, get over it. And if you’re a bigot, get over your doggone self already.

Most of all this week, thank you, Lt. Gen. Silveria for setting a fine example for all of us to emulate.

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