Top Military General Apologizes for His Role in Donald Trump's Controversial Church Photo-Op

Milley sought to turn the incident into a teaching lesson in his keynote address on Thursday, telling graduates it “was a mistake that I have learned from."

"I sincerely hope that we all can learn from it," he said. "We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation. We must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the essence of our republic."

Milley also addressed the protests and racial unrest in the U.S. directly, calling George Floyd's death while in Minneapolis police custody a “senseless, brutal killing.”

Despite the president's rhetoric on the demonstrations — which have been largely peaceful; though some have seethed into violence and destruction — Milley defended the freedom of speech and assembly, reminding graduates that members of the military fight to protect those rights and to protect the idea that "all men are created equal."

Milley later asked graduates to "reflect on what you have witnessed over the past two and a half weeks and what it means to all of us as Americans."

The general used a portion of his speech to encourage the military to improve on its equality efforts and raise its racial representation, noting that only 7 percent of military generals and admirals are black.

“We, too, have not come far enough,” Milley said. “We cannot afford to marginalize large portions of our potential talent pool or alienate certain demographic groups."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

• works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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