WASHINGTON – In a veiled rebuke of President Trump, former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson warned on Wednesday that American democracy was threatened by a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity."
"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 in a commencing address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va
Even small falsehoods and exaggerations are problematic, Mr. Tillerson said. He did not mention Mr. Trump by name, although the president is prone to both.
Mr. Tillerson arrived in Washington after running Exxon Mobile, one of the world's largest corporations, backed by business leaders and some foreign policy experts.
But as the nation's top diplomat, he
Since then, he has been largely closed in seclusion at his Texas ranch. He had agreed to deliver the V.M.I.
In his address, Mr. Trump exaggerates and constructs his own truths and that he has undermined ethical standards in Washington.  "If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in the public and private sector – and regrettably at times even the non-profit sector – then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years, "Mr. Tillerson warned.
Mr. Tillerson's 14-month tenure at the State Department was marked with Mr. Trump and exodus of some of the nation's most experienced diplomats. In the months before his own departure, Mr. Tillerson admitted he had only learned to tolerate the job – perhaps unsurprising, rebuffed by presidential tweet on North Korea and, at another Mr. Trump a "moron."
He and Mr. Trump disagreed on an array of specific issues, from the Paris accord to free trade.
"One of America's great advantages is we have many allies," he said , "Our adversaries – China, Russia, Iran and the terrorist organizations – have few."
Relations with Europe are at their lowest point in years, covered by a series of disagreements with the Trump administration on the climate accord, the Iran deal and trade disputes. Mr. Tillerson suggested this was problematic.
"We must never take these long-held allies for granted," he said. "We must motivate and strengthen them – not just in our areas of complete agreement, but especially in relations between us in trade relations and in national security matters."
Mr. Tillerson made a full-throated appeal for the benefits of free trade, warning of the "anxiety and fear of growing in foreign markets and about the global movement of jobs."
He said that "every nation has a right to aspire to "It is a notable defense of a veteran of an administration that has threatened to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement and impose billions of dollars in tariffs on rivals and allies and uses "America First" as its guiding principle.
Mr. Tillerson, for example, said that citizens of the United States are "future-oriented, not based on wishful thinking, not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises, but with a clear view of the facts"
In Washington, just before Mr. Tillerson began speaking, his successor, Mike Pompeo, was holding his first meeting with the entire staff of the State Department. Mr. Tillerson's tenure.
"It would be silly today to lay out my grand strategy for the State Department." I have too much to learn, "Mr. Pompeo said in a diploma. "Nor I want to tick off country-by-country threats. You know all that. "
Mr. Tillerson's own first all-hands meeting at the department, which was a lecture on world affairs. Mr. Pompeo did not mention Mr Tillerson by name but said he would not try to build a full diploma.
Mr. Pompeo has promised to bring back the State Department's "swagger back," which said "we should carry that diplomatic."
"We should carry that diplomatic Swagger to the ends of the Earth, humbly, nobly and with the skill and courage I know you all possess, "he said.
Back at the VMI campus, Mr. Tillerson told the graduating cadets that they must "carefully consider the values and the culture in which they seek to work."
"Look for employers who set high standards for ethical conduct, "he said.