"A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not, and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness, and demand our pursuit of America's future be fact-based", Rex Tillerson said during a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington.
Tillerson alluded to the "alternative realities" that leaders who "seek to hide the truth" propagate and warned that "when we as a people go wobbly on the truth, we go wobbly on America", at the Virginia Military Institute Wednesday afternoon.
In remarks to graduates of the Virginia Military Institute, Tillerson lamented assaults on facts that he said would lead to a loss of freedom if not countered.
Tillerson warned of a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity" reflected upon American democracy.
Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson warned of a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity" among USA leaders during a commencement speech Wednesday at the Virginia Military Institute. This is the life of non-democratic societies...
'When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth, even on what may seem to be the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on America, ' Tillerson said.
Tillerson had a troubled and at times distant relationship with Trump, who cut his first secretary of state out of some key decisions.
"It is truth that says to our adversaries, 'We say what we mean, and we mean what we say, '" Tillerson said. "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. The former ExxonMobil chief executive, who did not know Trump before interviewing for the job, was overruled by the president on several major policy issues, including the USA withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the intent, clear long before Tillerson was sacked, to leave the Iran nuclear deal.
After Mr Tillerson was quoted saying he had attempted to open dialogue with North Korea, Mr Trump said on Twitter he told Mr Tillerson he is "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man", a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. His tenure as secretary of state was criticised for his perceived aloofness, his failure to fill rank-and-file jobs and his failure to maintain the alliances he touted in his speech.
It wasn't only Trump who doubted Tillerson's performance in his former role, however. He said that he will give back the department its "swagger".