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Why this Air Force general's powerful speech is going viral

Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria delivered a moving speech about treating others with "dignity and respect" after a racial incident at the Air Force Academy.
/ Source: TODAY

A speech by an Air Force general about diversity and treating others with "dignity and respect" is resonating well beyond the 4,000 cadets he was hoping to reach.

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria gave a forceful talk to a group of cadets on Thursday after five black students at the Air Force Academy's prep school in Colorado found racial slurs written on the message boards outside their rooms two days earlier.

"If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out," he said. "If you can't treat someone from another gender, whether that's a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

The general continued: "If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can't treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

The speech received wide support, including a message from former Vice President Joe Biden.

Silveria, who is in his first year as the superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, told the cadets to reach for their phones and shoot video of the speech so that they remember his message and can refer to it at any time.

"You should be outraged, not only as an airman but as a human being,'' he said.

"If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place. 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."

Silveria also made reference to racially-charged events from across the country that sparked demonstrations.

"We would be naive to think that we shouldn't discuss this topic,'' he said. "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."

The use of racial slurs in the military can be considered violating orders and conduct unbecoming of an officer. The cadets who wrote the slurs could be court-martialed if they are identified, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

"No one can write on a board and take away our ideals,'' Silveria said.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.