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Air Force General Acknowledges Intolerance At Academy

Remarks by Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr.
Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy
ADL National Executive Committee Meeting
Denver, Colorado, June 3, 2005

Note: In advance of the General's public presentation before ADL's National Executive Committee, its top policymaking body, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman and Mountain States Director Bruce DeBoskey had a 90-minute face-to-face meeting with the General airing ADL's concerns.

Thank you for allowing me to be here this afternoon. It is truly an honor and a privilege for me to tell you what we have been through, what we are going through, and where we hope to go at the United States Air Force Academy. I came to the Academy in July of 2003. If you take yourself back two years, in January of 2003. What is commonly known as the sexual assault scandal had just broken at the Academy; where several folks had come forward and said, "I have been sexually assaulted, and I was punished for my behavior, and that nobody took me seriously." Basically, that is what those individuals said.

So after a couple of interviews, I was then headed to Colorado Springs. For the next two years my wife and I and our family worked probably as hard as I have in 32 years of service, taking on the biggest challenge of our lives, a huge issue in our Air Force.

When we arrived, we were bombarded by folks saying, How bad is it, what are we doing, where are we at? When I asked them to go back five years and show me the assessments we had made at the United States Air Force Academy, they were all over the map. They were some from here, and some from there, and some other places. So it was very difficult to draw the cross hairs and the bead on what are the facts.

Almost everything I had heard from Washington, DC while I was awaiting confirmation - when I actually got to the Academy were not really the facts. So to try to separate the facts from the fiction, and the truth from what people believe or think, that was a real challenge.

But over these next two years, the previous two years to now, we underwent ten outside organizations, some of them simultaneously, studying, conducting focus groups, conducting surveys, groups outside of our Academy, Congressional groups. You name it, we had it. We welcomed each one with open arms.

From those ten groups over a two-year period, not one of those groups came to me and said, General, you have a religious respect issue.

This issue is very insidious. Some of you might say, What are you talking about? When we walk through some of the data, I will say it doesn't jump out at you. It is an issue that has been at the Academy for a while; it will take a while to fix. But I will tell you that right off the bat, if there is anything else that you take from my presentation today, for the last year I have said publicly we have a problem.

Since I have been at the Air Force Academy, we have been open, honest; we have let teams come in; we open it up to the press. The press comes -- you take your cameras and you can go to see who you want. If you want to go in the classroom, you can go in the classroom. And people say you are crazy to do that.

But this is our Air Force Academy. We are all taxpayers. If you are not, I want to know what kind of business you are in. But we are all taxpayers. It is your Academy; it is my Academy. I didn't go to school there, but I have served this nation and moved my family 24 times over the last 32 years to serve this nation, and I am very proud of that. And we have to get this right. We can ill afford to move a year down the road and have made no progress.

So I want to talk you through a little bit about what makes us what we are, what we know, and what we don't know in our challenges. I have ten slides, and then we will open it up to questions and comments.

Those of you who have served, I applaud your efforts. I come from a military family. My father was a master chief in the Navy. He served for 30 years. He was a prisoner of war. Bombing out of the Aleutian Islands in World War II, he was held 17 months. I come from a family of three sisters. My sisters did not serve. They are educators. We have two children, one is 29, and the other is 25 -- almost 26. Neither of our children went in the military. They were each in three high schools. We moved them about every year of their life, and they decided they had already served, and I said Fine. They are doing great things. The good news is both of our children are off the payroll. And that is big today.

I just want to take a second to tell you that we are very proud of what we do. And we understand that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than most other organizations in this nation. And I firmly believe that the American people, the public, expects that of us. And when we don't meet that standard, in our minds we have failed.

And in many respects, as we go back and look over what has happened over the last couple of years, we have not met the mark. We are one of the only -- and if you know of another profession - that asks members to take an oath -- we take several oaths -- members to take an oath that they will give their lives for this nation.

We call that the unlimited liability clause. Each one of our young people takes an oath when they get to the Academy, and they reaffirm that oath. And Wednesday we graduated 906 in 17 festivities. Each one of those members reaffirmed the oath. This is not a normal business we are in. And I know that those of you who have served know that. And that is why it is so important that we get this right.

We are asking young people to give their lives, if called upon to do so. We are also called to win this nation's wars.

I grew up in my formative years as a fighter pilot. There is no second place. That is how we trained, and how we believed, and that is how we have developed over the last 30 years the world's leading air and space force. And we are proud of that. All we are talking about here is respect. If you marginalize a certain part of your team, if you discriminate against a certain part of your team - this is not new information -- you are not going to have good order and discipline. And when you go into combat you likely will have problems.

That last bullet there says it all. It is so easy to say it but so hard to do it. We cannot separate part of our team, in any form or fashion. And we will not tolerate that.

As we looked at all of the reports that came in over the last couple years, in the first six months we sat down and said, Obviously, we have a trust and confidence issue. We have a problem in America with trust and confidence in the United States Air Force Academy, and who could blame them. From the outside, people looking in saw media reports -- many of those reports are simply inaccurate. That is what I can say.

We have spent a lot of time out in the public eye trying to tell our story, as we are with this story.

We really broke down our issue into three main areas. And it can go for sexual assault. What we found through all of these reports is that we have a climate and a culture at the United States Air Force Academy that is unlike any place I have, and probably unlike businesses you are in. It is unlike the Air Force that I grew up in. Young people don't respect themselves. They don't respect others.

I told you I came from a family of educators. When I go back and put this uniform on and walk through a high school, or in the halls of Congress, many people do not understand what is going on in our high schools. I am a product of public schools. My sisters and brothers in law have taught in public schools. They do a wonderful job. But I will tell you the way those young people interact with one another, the way they speak to one another, the way they treat each other borders -- borders -- on discrimination by the definition we use in our military.

So we take roughly 1,300 young people --on the 30th of June will we will take almost 1,400 young people from around this nation sent to us, 18 to 19 years old, and we have them for four years. In four years we must develop them into men and women of character to lead this nation. By doing that, through education -- not only of our cadets, but our staff and faculty -- as you will see, many of the areas and issues we have are among our staff and faculty. All of us -- none is immune. For some reason over the last several years we had seen ourselves as an academic institution on a military base. But we are a military fighting organization, that just happens to be a four-year academic degree. It is much different.

What we found was really a cold war institution. In our Air Force -- our militaries are transforming into the expeditionary Air Force, if you will. The Air Force I group in before 1990, only twelve percent of us deployed. Twelve percent went forward to fight the wars. In the Air Force today, approximately 87 percent of our Air Force goes forward to fight. We have skiny'd down and we deploy forward. We opened upwards of 100 different installations in Iraq.

That is why it is important to these young people that we focus and orient them on the operational Air Force. Yes, you are a student, but you took an oath to support and defend this institution, and you will uphold that institution. So focus and orienting. Much of our training over the last two years has been much more focused to the operational Air Force.

In the last bullet there we talked a bit about it. If you don't know where you are, you certainly don't know where you are going. This is a huge piece of where we set our training and adjust our training over time.

So those are the three focus areas that we have set for the last couple years.

Those of you who are part of organizational change, or experts in culture -- we found over the last couple years there are very few in this country who really understand cultural change. Most everybody told us there are five to six phases of cultural change. I wanted to put this up hear for a couple of different reasons.

Number one, for the last couple of years we have been talking about respect. This issue of religious respect is really under the umbrella of respecting yourself, respecting others, respecting gender, respecting race, respecting the use of alcohol. This generation of young people are very, very bright, but they bring to us, just like we brought baggage with us out of our high schools into the colleges, they bring baggage with them. And we have got to, over the four years, develop them to be members of the profession of arms.

But through this phase, the preparation phase, looking at all of the reports, what do they tell us. We have been working this issue. Looking in the mirror -- very, very tough for a proud institution. A proud institution looking into the mirror to say we have problems. A huge hump for us. Then you start to turn the tide. This is about where we are in our religious respect.

You turn the tide by saying here is the standard. This is what your government says you are supposed to do, this is what your Air Force charges you to do. After education and training we will hold you to that standard. We should have been holding people to that standard all along. But we have reset the clock.

Then, by your actions -- and your inactions, actually, you will create a culture. And by culture, I mean the way we do things around here. What you will accept, the behavior and standards that you maintain, will set that or create that culture. And we are not there yet. And then we will embed that culture over time.

It is something that keeps me awake at night. It is very, very difficult to do.

You see, these vertical lines are assessments. Because at each phase you have to assess where you are, and you have to balance that. And experts say if you don't balance it, you will assess all the time and just assess people to death. We don't want to do that. But you can see that in our journey, we have a ways to go.

Culture change experts around the country -- and trust me, we brought many of them to the Academy -- if everything goes well, you are talking about probably six years. And normally, it is six to eight years. You obviously make improvements in the first couple years, but to get to the end of that red line, it takes time.

If we all sit in this room and think if we do one session of a 50-minute training and the problems we face are cured, then we are fooling ourselves in every aspect.

Now we get to the religious respect issue. How did we find it, what happened, how do we know this?

I told you I arrived at the Academy in July of '03. My commandant got there in April of '03, and his vice-commandant. There were four people removed from the Academy and four of us put in. Three got there relatively quickly; I waited three months.

So about the time I get there in July, I look at what has been written, what has been said, and I find that we are outside the box. There was a National Prayer Breakfast e-mail that went out. It was inappropriate. You can talk about the National Prayer Breakfast. There is nothing wrong with that. But the words in there, and the meanings coming across, written by our commandant, were inappropriate. They were outside the box.

Another commander's guidance went out. Well-intended. What we had found, among other things, is that these young people had loyalty to themselves over loyalty to the institution and to the Air Force. So in an attempt to give young people an idea of where their loyalties lie, our commandant started out with your loyalty is to your God. And then went down.

Some people believe that. But a lot don't. It is inappropriate, in my mind. So I handled each of those. We sat down and we reset the clock. I said that is inappropriate. That is not the kind of behavior, not what I expect out of you. That was in April of '03. And since that time I have not seen any kind of behavior outside that line.

There was a full-page ad in the back of our base paper. Our base paper talks about things that happen around the Academy. I did not see that ad in the fall of '03, the holiday season of '03. My wife and I went back to the East Coast to be with our family. I didn't see the ad.

The ad said -- we can get a copy for you -- it said something to the effect of the only real hope -- or Jesus Christ is the only real hope for mankind. Or something to that effect.

When I saw that ad -- what made matters worse, several -- several, I don't know the number --but several Academy leaders had signed up through that. Unknowing through an e-mail, they signed up and put $5 in, around the holidays. So then their name was tied to that ad.

That ad, I am told, had run for many, many years. It is a full-page ad. It did not run in '04. I didn't know about that ad until the summertime of '04 when we started to look and talk to folks.

"Passion of the Christ." A very, very controversial movie. When that came out, we had young people that mass e-mailed -- mass e-mailed to everybody: You need to go to this movie, you need to see this movie.

In addition, my wife and I went to have lunch. Because we go periodically in with the cadets. We noticed flyers, not on every table, but enough flyers to get to your attention. I had been so embroiled in what was going on, I didn't realize what this movie was. She knew what it was.

Again, that is not the way we do business in the Department of Defense. It is not the way we do business in the Air Force. I sent out a policy right after that to say here is what we should be doing, and this is what our government expects.

You heard about the banner that went up last fall, probably in the November time frame. It said something to the effect of team of Jesus Christ. It came down right after it went up. But clearly, clearly over the line.

I personally sat down with the football coach. We talked and had a two-hour discussion, among other things that we are paying the coach - a wonderful, wonderful person -- we are paying him to coach. That is what we expect. We pay him to coach, and he does that very, very well. But that was clearly over the line.

So about this time, in the summertime, we start to see and connect the dots. It is easy to sit here and say, Wow, you are pretty stupid if you didn't see that. But as we are going 100 miles an hour, building this airplane as we fly it, these things are popping up over a year and a half period.

So I took our ombudsman, our culture and climate experts, our team of people. I said, I want to get every cadet you can find and find out what is going on, what do they know.

We had young people come forward, about eight to ten, and some of them were faculty members. And they gave examples over the last four to five years of behavior they thought was out of the box.

Eighty-five percent of those were just pure ignorance. Not understanding anything about other people's religions, other people's faiths; what other people believe or don't believe; 85 percent of them were saying things inappropriately. Inappropriate jokes.

Besides religious jokes, we have also been fighting sexual jokes, gender jokes. It is part of this culture, the young people we are working. But out of that we learned a lot from our young people.

But what was telling was that every piece of information that I got, the names had been blocked out. So now, when you go and say, I need to talk to somebody about this, because they didn't have trust and confidence in our system, they blocked the names out. They didn't want to cause problems, didn't want their name tied to this situation.

We have worked long and hard in the sexual assault arena, which was when I got here the Number one issue. In the first ten or eleven months between surveys we doubled -- doubled -- the national reporting for sexual assault type crimes is about 16 percent. In our second survey we went from about percent to 35 percent. In other words, 35 percent of our young people who said they had been sexually assaulted, came forward and told somebody. You can work this. That is not anywhere near where we want to be. We want to be at 105 percent. But we continue to work.

The reason I tell young people that is if you have trust and confidence in the system that somebody is going to listen to you, and you have a way to report, a lot of this issue goes away. So much of it was a miscommunication that our staff and faculty in feedback talked about.

You know about the ongoing headquarters team that just came in May. They are writing their report. Again, we will have, I am sure, other departments coming in to take a look at us. So those events, when we piece them all together, and as we sit here in a nice quiet room, it is very, very obvious. But I am here to tell you that as we were going down this path, it wasn't very obvious.

So we said, Where are we going, what do we have to do? The first thing we did -- the first thing I did when I got to the Academy. I acknowledged we have a sexual assault issue, we have cultural problems, we have a religious respect issue at the United States Air Force Academy. You have to tackle it head on. You have to figure out what is the problem, and not treat symptoms and move on. You have to tackle it. But really you have to cultivate respect. Because this is a respect issue. It really is when you come down to it. It is an education issue and a respect issue. We have to cultivate that with respect for one another, through education, training, and accountability. And once you set that bar, and you say this is what we expect from you, you hold people accountable.

Here are some of the internal problems, and then we will talk about some external problems. This is what we found through our own internal surveys. Other folks didn't tell us this. Of cadets, for example, the question we asked: I feel the United States Air Force Academy supports my religious freedom.

If you are in the majority, and you look at that number, and you look at a bar chart, you are feeling pretty good about life; 84 percent of the people say yes.

But if you look at the non-Christians, the folks that checked other, almost 60 percent of them felt like, yes, supportive, but 40 percent said no. So when we see that big disparity, our analysts say that is outside the norm.

Then, we go and survey our faculty and staff. This survey went out to approximately -- 4,000 cadets -- 4,100 -- and almost 5,000 staff and faculty.

There we see that question, respecting individual religious views, Christians, 92 percent of them say things are pretty good. But look at the number of non-Christians. Half of them say things are not good.

When you alert on those numbers - just one by itself doesn't tell the whole story. But the write-ins and you look at the comments people make. People could write comments. When you look at the comments people make, it really started to tell us that here is our internal problem.

And you see the take away there. One of the biggest challenges we have is just like sexual assault. When I stand up in front of folks and say, Folks, we have a problem -- and let me tell you we have a problem -- 92 percent of them think we don't. Because 90 percent of us at the Academy are Christian, so you see the dilemma. I am talking to people, sharing dialogue, where the large majority of people sitting there looking at you say there is no problem.

Sexual assault by nature, from the experts we brought in around the country -- there are a few -- in a population there are very few sexual assaulters. Not a large number, but they strike frequently. Dr. David Lesack, of the University of Massachusetts, studied for 30 years violent crime. He studied a control group of about 50 men in prison, who had conducted almost -- if I get the numbers right -- about 1,500 acts.

So when we go and say we have a sexual assault issue, so many of our young people look at us and say, No, we don't, I have never experienced that. So going down the same lines with the religious respect, you have to realize there is a problem. These are bright young people, and we have a world class faculty. But you put more of these survey results up and people start to realize you are right, we do have a problem. I might not have seen it, but we have a problem. And that is the part of that multi-colored chart, looking in the mirror, that is very, very tough. You look in the mirror, and if you don't see a problem, you are not going to fix or create a solution.

Now look externally. This is what we have read a lot about in the press. We have heard from individuals. They have helped us. Some of the individuals that are our biggest critics, I had some great dialogue with them, and I agree with most of what they say.

Yale Divinity School came out last summer. They didn't do a report. They did a memo. That memo, for whatever reason, never made it to the upper echelons of the Academy staff. I never saw it until it was in the press. I didn't see it.

But to put that in perspective, it was a three-page memo -- about two pages and a bit.

There were some paragraphs about that wide, probably if I thought about it in my mind, probably 18 paragraphs. There was one paragraph in that report that said you have an issue. And it was about the service where young people came to that service voluntarily, a Protestant service where they witnessed or what they called evangelizing, or some people called proselytizing. So to put that memo in context - we didn't see it, it was brought to the head chaplain; he had only been there eight weeks; looked at it and said, okay, here is a data point; I understand.

But the majority of that was fairly positive -- I met with Dr. Leslie. I met her out in the field. I didn't even know she was here. I met her in the field. And we had a very pleasant conversation. Nowhere was it relayed to me that you have a problem. And to be fair, she may not have seen the problem yet. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State have written to the Secretary of Defense saying we have an issue at the Academy that we need to handle. So both from internally and externally, you see a quick formula that you can all read there, perceptions of reality: We don't have respect. We don't have what we need. We know that. All of the incidents that we hear and see are symptomatic of a bigger problem. They are symptomatic, but not the cause.

You would be amazed -- you probably wouldn't, this group -- but I was amazed how many people do not understand other people's cultures. They certainly don't understand other people's religions, faith, or lack of faith. So most of what we see when we ask how does this happen, it is pure ignorance, people just didn't know. And when you sit people down and say what are you thinking about, they didn't know.

In some cases -- I will be frank - they did. They were vicious, and they shouldn't have been. But respect is where we are trying to go, and trying to talk, and trying to cultivate respect.

To do that, if you have not been in command -- I commanded combat units most of my life. That trust is generated and built -- those of you who served know what I am talking about -- before you enter combat, if you don't trust that person sitting next to you to have your back, then you are not going to have a cohesive fighting unit. And that trust comes from the oath. It doesn't matter where we come from or what we believe, it is the oath to the Constitution, that I will support and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic. That is what binds us together. Those relationships are formed, and that is why they are so very, very important, that these relationships most form in these young people's formative years, because they will be charged to lead America's sons and daughters in the very near future.

The Phase 1 program is a baby step in a long-term program. We call it respecting the spiritual values of all people. RSVP. A kind of a mnemonic.

Let me talk to you about what that is. The first block of instruction has two real points that we want to make sure people understand. Sensitizing.Getting young people to talk. I have met with groups in the recent past of all religions. I meet with focus groups all the time. I said, Okay, tell me where we are with this issue.

Common themes are these: It is a lot better, we are not there yet, but it is a lot better; we are talking about it, we never used to talk about it. Now, we are talking about it.

Educating, getting everybody, all 9,000 of us, to understand there is an issue. More importantly in my mind is reaffirming in my mind what are the rules of conduct.

Sexual assault is black and white. Nobody is for sexual assault. Nobody is for alcoholism, or alcohol abuse.

When you start to look at religious issues, and you look at what our Constitution says, it is pretty clear to me. But when you get into the Department of Defense, it speaks in very broad terms. It doesn't say you can't do this, you can't do this. It leaves it to commanders. And as you go down, look at our Air Force charge. It is also, I believe, intentionally broad. And this is one of the issues we are attacking, and hopefully we will get some clear policy and guidelines that will give us boundaries.

Because as I went around throughout this command and asked people what does the Department of Defense say we must do regarding religious respect, people could somehow get close. Same thing with our Air Force.

So now, we have reset that chart, and reset the goal, saying this is what you said in the oath, and this is what you mean. So whether you want to take pot shots at RSVP, and whether you want to say it is good or bad -- critics are all over the place - it is hard to think critically, but critics are everywhere. And we accept that.

I wear this uniform so they can criticize. It is kind of ironic.

But we lay the foundation in our first phase of what it means to take an oath, and what it means to be a member of the profession of arms. And I lay it out for the last ten years to commands. And I kind of put it from my perspective as a fighter pilot, commanding units. We go out. We usually fly in pairs. When we go in harm's way, I want to make sure that the person in the other airplane knows how to fly that airplane, knows how to employ it as a weapon, and knows how to bring it back to serve another day to win America's wars.

I know before we ever take off the person in that airplane has taken the same oath I have. And in the end, when we shut the engines down and sit next to each other, when the helmet comes off, I don't care what that person looks like, their gender, their race, what they believe, or if they believe. All I want to know is they have taken the same oath that I have to support and defend this nation. That is what is so important. Because these young people that we are cultivating and developing will lead this nation.

So where do we go? One of the things, if you know anything about what we have been doing at the Academy, I have gone out nationally and asked for help. We brought in national experts from around this nation on sexual assault. We have wonderfully smart people at the Academy. We know what we think we need to do. But we are, I fear, looking down the soda straw. I need somebody to help look around that soda straw.

We brought in national experts to help us develop programs that I am very proud of, that the Air Force has adopted in sexual assault reporting, and I think the Department of Defense will adopt much of what we have developed and learned over the last couple of years.

We are in the process of doing the same for religious respect. Going and getting groups to help us. Groups balanced to say are we going down the wrong path. This organization has for many, many years developed trained experts. You have a lot of kinds of things that we need. We need to balance and educate to transform minds, to let young people know where those boundaries are. Train to make sure folks internalize it, to believe it, because if you don't, you are just fooling yourself, and then hold people accountable.

I get people who come up to me and say, Well, you knew So-and-so. They are asking me to lop their heads off. Our Uniform Code of Military Justice, our military justice system, has a wide range, just like our civilian justice system. It starts with counseling, and goes right on up to courts martial. Commanders are charged to enter that realm, enter that spectrum at the proper point.

In my experience, when I have had a problem over the years, when I sit down and look at that person face to face and say, You are not meeting standards, this is what I expect, and that is what we will tolerate and not. Then, the vast majority of time, 90 percent of the time in my experience, we never have that issue again, we never have that problem again. But we must hold people accountable. Focus and orienting, giving people and equipping this next generation to lead this diverse force.

We are getting more diverse. We think that is our strength. That is great. Then assessing, having the courage to say, Here is where we are not measuring up.

If you go to the United States Air Force Academy Web site today, you will see every report that has been written about us in the last two years. You will see every climate survey that has been written about us. We are open, we are honest. When those come out, we bring the press out and say, Here is what we know. Those assessments are key. But pulling this together as a team, so there is not a winner and loser. This is not about winning and losing. We have a great chance to move forward in our nation to set an example for people that come behind us. And if we miss that, it will be a great shame in my mind.

So cultivating that climate of respect. Understanding that we have a lack of awareness, ignorance, and in some cases we have vicious folks.Those we know have never been right and we don't tolerate those. We need to know about those.

Creating an environment where young people have the courage to come forward.

Educating, training, and accountability, and making sure that everybody understands their institutional rights and what this country has to unfold for them. This is our Academy. It is your Academy, it is my Academy. It is one of the premier institutions in this nation. I am very humbled to be a part of it. We have a great opportunity. If we can take it and approach it from a glass half full and figure where we can go, and where we can be, I think it is limitless.

That is what I have for you today. I will tell you that we are serious about what we are doing. And if you go back and look at the facts, for the last eight or ten months, I have briefed every four-star general in our Air Force, I have personally briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee professional staffers on the issue of what we are doing with it. And our board of visitors has gone through our RSVP training. From Day One when we found out this issue, we have been very open and honest.

This is a tough issue. I don't have to tell this group that. We have been fighting and working this issue for two hundred years in this nation. It is a very, very emotionally charged issue. We want to make sure that cooler heads prevail, teams come together, and let's solve, and work, and let's get better. That is my charge to you.

Response from Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director:

General, the audience you face is an audience devoted and dedicated to standing up courageously to fight bigotry, and prejudice, and racism, and anti-Semitism. And it is a skeptical audience. We have traveled that road before, we have been there. We have a history of being separated out, singled out because of our faith, our tradition, and our beliefs.

Your coming here, General, is very significant. I want to thank you for being here, for your candor, for your openness.

Bruce DeBoskey [ADL Mountain States Director] and I had an opportunity this morning to spend an hour and a half with you face to face, probing, asking questions. I want to say publicly to you that we feel comfortable, we feel confident, that you understand, that you appreciate the severity of the problem; that you understand the urgent need to address the bias, the intolerance, the disrespect. If there is anyone who may be successful in changing that skewed, ignorant, insensitive culture, it is you.

What we did not hear is what we so frequently hear when issues of intolerance and disrespect surface: Denial. Excuses. There is no denial that we hear from you. We hear a sober assessment of your institution, of a culture, that you are committed to change, and I feel comfortable and confident that you will do your utmost to change.

General, we will do our utmost to support your effort and your resolve. And we will try with the ability that we have to keep the politics of dissension and polarization of an atmosphere that is out there around the perimeter of the Academy and beyond that sees this as an opportunity to exploit some of the differences that are company is now debating. Because what is at stake is not only the Academy, its officers, its future leaders. What is at stake is the integrity of the American promise, the American dream, of freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of practice. And it can only come when we can enhance, guarantee and strengthen respect for others.

General, you talked to us with a sense of humility. I say to you with a sense of humility, you make us proud to be Americans. We salute your sensitivity and we wish you Godspeed. And you will have in us a partner, a friend, and a sporter to help change that culture, to bring it back where it belongs for a freer, safer America, that produces leadership for the future with respect for one another to guarantee our traditions and our heritage.

Thank you for coming.

Related Information
ADL Concerned About Religious Harassment At Air Force Academy (4/22/05)
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