Tillerson: 'I see a growing crisis in ethics and integrity'


President Donald Trump's former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, told graduating seniors that they had a responsibility to "confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders" in order to prevent "American democracy as we know it" from entering "its twilight years" at a military academy commencement speech Wednesday.

Tillerson, who was sacked in March by President Donald Trump, did not mention the president during his commencement speech at the Virginia Military Institute Wednesday - but warned of accepting "alternative realities" not "grounded in facts".

"When we as a people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth, even on what may seem the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on America", he said.

VMI announced Tillerson as the commencement speaker while he was still secretary of state.

Trump fired Tillerson via Twitter in March, ending what had devolved into a tumultuous relationship between the two men.

He did not mention Trump by name during the speech that warned about the dangers to US democracy over the lack of truthfulness.

Tillerson did not call out President Trump by name, but the president is known for an often loose association with the truth and Tillerson appeared to be referencing Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway's famous defense of "alternative facts." .

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Tillerson's most powerful theme, however, was the importance of standing up for the truth.

He said only societies able to pursue the truth and challenge alternate realities could be truly free.

Mr Tillerson, a Texan and the chief executive of energy company ExxonMobil for a decade before joining Trump's administration, was replaced with Central Intelligence Agency directer Mike Pompeo, who has since made two trips to North Korea to hold discussions with Kim.

Tillerson's successor hosted his first town hall with employees at the State Department on Wednesday.

The president spoke to reporters after posting the tweet, stating that he and Mr Pompeo shared similar thinking and he had "disagreed" with Mr Tillerson.

During the question-and-answer portion, Pompeo addressed a range of inquiries from employees, including one about the strength of the USA response to Russian aggression. "You will now enter a world where, sadly, that is not always the case. Look for employers who set high standards for personal conduct and who reward ethical leadership", and emphasized that integrity is the most valuable asset they have. "And blessed is the man that can say that the boy he was would be proud of the man he is".