Rex Tillerson has been largely out of the public eye since he was ousted as Secretary of State earlier this year. But Wednesday at Virginia Military Institute, Tillerson warned graduates about a crisis of ethics.
Rex Tillerson didn’t directly address his time as Secretary of State or the administration in which he served. But he did tell the 371 graduates of Virginia Military Institute that American democracy faces a growing crisis of ethics and integrity.
Freedom to seek the truth, he said, is the very essence of democracy. "If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom."
Tillerson told the graduates to recognize what truth is and what it is not. "And begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness and demand our pursuit of America’s future be fact-based." Personal integrity, he told the new college graduates, leads to "managerial integrity."
Virginia Military Institute Cadets are used to preparing for military conflicts and overseas crises. About 60 percent of the class of 2018 will be commissioned as military officers.
Tillerson, however, told them the growth of digital communications is the biggest economic and national security challenge facing the country. "Digital highways and backroads are great enablers of good and advanced (the) progress of humanity. But they are also ungoverned connections for the spread of evil ideologies and the know-how to organize and spread the tools of terrorism."
Tillerson said political and businesses leaders have struggled to keep up with the technology, instead of shaping how it is used.
Tillerson also spoke of international allies and adversaries. "We must recognize the value of friends and allies, allies born of shared values and shared sacrifices." One of America's great advantages, Tillerson said, is that it has many allies. "Our adversaries-- China, Russia, Iran and the terrorist organizations have few."