In a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., Wednesday, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned of “a growing crisis in ethics and integrity,” saying that a failure to confront it will usher the U.S. into its “twilight years.”
“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,” he said.
Tillerson said that Americans should seek a fact-based society instead, rather than one “based on wishful thinking, no hopefully outcomes made in shallow promises.”
“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both the public and private sector – and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector – then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years,” he added.
The Hill added:
At no point in his speech did Tillerson mention President Trump or his administration by name. But the former top diplomat’s remarks, at times, appeared laser-focused on the president.
Tillerson was unceremoniously fired in March, when Trump tweeted that he planned to nominate then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his new secretary of State. Tillerson, who had returned from an official trip to Africa hours earlier, was reportedly caught off guard by his dismissal.
He formally terminated his commission as secretary on March 31.
Tillerson said that the U.S. should not take its longtime “allies for granted,” but should instead seek to resolve differences, “both in trade relations and national security matters.”
Tillerson acknowledged that globalization has “led to anxiety and fear about growth in foreign markets and about the global movement of jobs.”
“We must acknowledge, however, that every nation has the right to aspire to a better quality of life, and that free trade and economic growth are the means by which economic opportunity is created for all people,” he said.
Tillerson also cautioned that failing to seek out truth and confront false information would erode American democracy, transforming the U.S. into a more repressive society, similar to the likes of “Russia, China, Iran, North Korea.”
“We do not have to look far to find examples of the cost to individuals and to society when integrity is sacrificed for immediate gain or personal achievement,” he said.
“Such damage strikes at the very heart of a free society. It undermines the public trust in institutions and the overwhelming number of individuals, organizations who do live and compete by the rules everyday.”