Jay Silveria gives us a new American hero

Finally, within the U.S. government, we have a leader. This leader's name is Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria.

Finally. Finally, within the U.S. government, we have a leader. We have a leader who is in a position of power to not only lead, but to educate, communicate, and bleed American nationalism among young people. This leader’s name is Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. He’s the superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he is my new hero.

In the wake of Charlottesville, Ferguson, and the protests within the National Football League, and in response to racial slurs recently written on message boards by new students, Silveria spoke out publicly to all 4,000 U.S. Air Force Academy cadets last week about the power that comes from people of all backgrounds getting together to work toward a common purpose. He clearly included gender and race as prejudices he would not tolerate. He was so emphatic about his point that he told his audience to reach for their phones to record what he had to say “so that we all have the moral courage together,” to stand against prejudice.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect,” said Silveria, “then you need to get out.”

To me, these are powerful words from someone in our military. He makes it clear that the Air Force Academy’s values, the military’s values, our government’s values, American values, have no room for prejudice. He admits that we would be naïve to think that prejudice doesn’t exist in our country, but he also makes it clear that he will not tolerate it in the Air Force Academy.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

I once wrote about my daughter as a young girl in school. She proudly told me that she did not participate when a group of her friends were making fun of another girl. I asked her what she did to defend the girl. She told me she didn’t do anything, but she wasn’t one of the group who taunted her.

She was pleased with herself and thought that I too would be pleased that she did not join in with the crowd to torture this girl. But then I asked my daughter what she did to make it right. She told me that she just walked away knowing that abusing her was the wrong thing to do.

I came down kind of hard on her. I asked her what she thought about the Christian people in Nazi Germany who knew about the concentration camps. I asked her if she thought it was enough that they weren’t among the Nazis who herded the Jews away knowing that they were being taken to their deaths? I admit it was a very harsh lesson I was trying to teach my young daughter, but one I thought was important. I was trying to teach her that it wasn’t enough to stand by and not participate when you clearly identify that a wrong is being committed. You have to stand up, even at your own peril, for what you believe to be right.


Lt. General Jay Silveria stood up for what was not right among his ranks. He spoke out clearly and unequivocally.

How much greater would our country be if we all did that?

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal