San Francisco, CA, November 14, 2017 … The superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy was honored Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for his actions in standing up to racial slurs written on doors in a student dormitory at the Colorado Springs military academy earlier this year.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria was presented with the ADL Americanism Award in a ceremony at San Francisco’s City Hall Rotunda, where his courageous words against racism were celebrated by local and national ADL board members, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, District Attorney George Gascón, and other dignitaries.
In September, when racial slurs appeared in the academy’s preparatory school dormitory and photos of the slurs were shared on social media, Silveria called a school-wide assembly where he made a defiant speech clearly and forcefully condemning racism. In a video that later went viral, Silveria told the assembly of nearly 5,500 students, faculty and staff: “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, Get out!”
“In that simple act, he demonstrated a kind of courage that so many administrators, quite frankly, seem to lack,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO said in presenting the award. “The general rightfully saw the racial slurs on the wall, as writing on the wall. His clarion call for decency was heard far beyond the walls of the academy, and his message literally blotted out the social media pictures of the slurs because his words were viewed by millions of people on YouTube.”
In his remarks, Silveria said he was humbled to be so honored. He said he was accepting the award on behalf of the faculty, staff and coaches of the Air Force Academy who teach the values of leadership, integrity and excellence every day.
“My words were certainly not new,” Silveria said. “I’m in a role of teaching cadets to maintain and hold and learn those values. It was very clear to me that I needed to step out and say something right away.”
ADL’s Americanism Award was established to honor those individuals and institutions which illuminate and exemplify the noblest ideals and traditions of the United States by inspiring others to emulate their example of good citizenship and public responsibility.
Past recipients of the ADL Americanism Award include the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta; Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference; Leonard Riggio, Founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc.; and tennis star Venus Williams.