Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned of a growing crisis in "ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders" during a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute, reports Politico. If not addressed, "American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years," he said. Although Tillerson never mentioned President Trump or his administration by name, his remarks Wednesday appeared directed at the president, notes the Hill. He also made a passionate appeal for free trade, a clear swipe at Trump's "America first" philosophy. The New York Times characterizes his remarks as a "powerful rebuke" of the president. Among his comments:
- "When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America."
- "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."
- "Every nation has the right to aspire to a better quality of life, and ... free trade and economic growth are the means by which economic opportunity is created for all people"
- "Carefully consider the values and the culture of the organizations in which you seek to work."
- "Look for employers who set high standards for ethical conduct.”
- "Demand our pursuit of America's future be fact-based—not based on wishful thinking, not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises, but with a clear-eyed view of the facts as they are, and guided by the truth that will set us free to seek solutions to our most daunting challenges."
(This was Tillerson's first major public address since Trump fired him in March.