The following is a speech entitled, “Don’t Ever Turn Your Back on Your God or Your Country,” by Air Force Major General Daniel (Chappie) James, Jr., who was the deputy assistant secretary of defense, a noted fighter pilot and one of the highest ranking black military officers, at the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
“My young life was filled with orders, advice and encouragement. I was told to eliminate one by one all the reasons some bigot might say I was not capable of standing beside him or deserving of equal opportunity .
If he says you are dirty, make sure you are clean. If he says you steal, make sure you don’t. If he says you are dumb, make sure you learn. If he says you are scared, make sure you are brave, my son. And if there ever comes a time to fight for your country, don’t you run away and hide.
And don’t you ever, no matter what the provocation or the invitation, turn your back on your God or your country or that flag.
Remember, they said, you are not African. You are an American and this is your land. Many of those who will suggest you go back to Africa cannot trace their ancestors in this country as far back as you can trace yours.
This is your nation and don’t you get so busy practicing your right to dissent that you forget your responsibility to contribute. If she has ills, you hold her hand until she is well and then work for constructive change within the system.
Let your own contribution to the problems of your race be a by-product of your achievement in your chosen field. You will prosper in proportion to your contribution to the nation.
Remember that with the heritage of being an American goes the responsibility for developing that heritage and passing it on to your kids in better shape than you got it.
Don’t stop to argue with the ignoramus on the street who calls you the “N” word. You don’t have time. Press on. Perform, Perform, Excel, Excel. And when you drive back by, in the limousine of success, that ignoramus will still be standing there on the corner wrapped in his hate.
The power of excellence is overwhelming. It is always in demand and nobody cares about its color.”
This certainly applies to all Americans of all colors.