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Rex Tillerson Jabs Trump During Commencement Speech
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Oh no you don't Rex, you can't get off that easy. Giving a nice speech does not exonerate you from the failures of your actions as Secretary of State. Listen, I live by and love words and often lecture that words are important and carry consequences. Choosing them carefully is critically important for leaders and statesmen to convey and convince their followers that the cause that unites them as a team, a squad, a state, or a nation is just and worth fighting for. Similarly words well chosen and spoken can ignite the passions of many to defend that which is worth defending.
But equally as important are actions taken that exemplify the moral rectitude and values that represent the fiber of the larger community of mankind. Putting one's ideas and ideals into action requires the ability to withstand scrutiny and criticisms that often verge upon confrontation and conflict. Do as I say not as I do is simply unacceptable as a governing philosophy. It is here where you failed to fulfill the duties of the important position you were privileged to have on behalf of the nation and its citizens. Sanctimonious hindsight is an important first step, but it is only a first step.
Words can help elevate one into a position of power, but once in such a position it is actions that define whether a society or a world is advanced for the betterment of all. Policy formulation represents the foundation of advancement, but policy implementation requires the ability to gauge and if necessary recalibrate whether or not the ship of state is headed in the right direction.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered a commencement speech to the graduates of Virginia Military Institute recently and it was well written and delivered with polish. The recurring theme revolved around personal and professional ethics and integrity. The underpinnings of Rex's message to the students was captured in a biblical quote from John 8:32, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
He constantly returned to the importance of relying upon truth and facts, underscored the virtues of a democratic society buttressed by ethnic diversity, warned of a growing crisis in which American democracy is in danger of entering its twilight years if held captive to alternative realities, and continually returned to the notion that truth and the facts were the glue which held us together. Where was such indignant adherence to these noble virtues when it counted?
It was a powerful speech and hit what this liberal would characterize as all the right notes, however it came from the mouth of an individual who failed spectacularly to live up to the expectations he is now placing upon others. As Secretary of State he served as one of the principal advisors to a President who would not know the truth if it hit him in the face. Sure Rex was accused, and never denied, that he referred to the President as an 'effing moron' but that does not meet the bar he is now laying out to these future leaders. Rex is now seeking to rehabilitate the tattered reputation he left during his tenure as Secretary of State. It is never too late to rehabilitate one's character failures, but it is just a bit too hypocritical to not first admit to your own shortcomings.
I will not even venture into his lifelong professional career that had him rise to the top of Exxon-Mobil, the leading global purveyor of toxic fossil fuels that are threatening the survival of mankind. Rex, you have wrought so much human suffering through your steadfast ignorance of the truth and facts surrounding climate change it is hard to take your words now seriously.
It could not escape Rex, an educated and worldly man, that he was taking direction from a pathological liar. Rex made no attempts to educate his boss, talk about lack of integrity and ethics. He systematically dismantled the State Department, in essence placing friends and foes alike in the uncomfortable position of not having the slightest idea what our nation's policy on key international issues was or is.
Tillerson also talks about the importance of allies and not taking them for granted while during his tenure as the nation's Chief Diplomat we systematically embarrassed our allies, inflamed our adversaries, and carried on what can only be described as a perverse personal courtship of some of the world's most brutal autocrats (Putin, Erdogan, Duterte) while snubbing traditional allies in Great Britain, France, and Germany.
Serving at the foot of a narcissistic man devoid of integrity, disdainful of ethics, comforting to racists and white supremacy, anti-globalist to the point of isolationist, and threatening to world peace, Rex constituted one-fourth of those designated as adults to keep the President in line. He, along with Defense Secretary Mattis, National Security Adviser McMaster, and Chief of Staff Kelly, were seen as the last defense by many for keeping the nation safe. They were deemed as the adults in the room.
Attainment of power requires acceptance of responsibility. In this respect all four failed, only two remain and in all likelihood that number will shrink again soon. Rex was summarily dismissed by tweet. It was humiliating to watch and to a small degree I felt empathy for the man, but only to a small degree. He failed to live up to the standards he so eloquently set out in his recent speech. A mea culpa would have gone a hell of a lot further than the spoken words summoning students to do the right thing, unlike what he has done.
Rex, you are wealthy and I do believe you have been chastened by your experience with public service. If the speech was meant to send a shiv into the heart of the President it was simply unsuccessful. Take your wealth and your spirit, whatever is left at this point, and devote your twilight years to ridding the nation of the scourge of Trumpism, and spend your time promoting a reinvigoration of public service, international goodwill, and fighting climate change. You have earned credentials in all three areas, put them to good use, and be true to your own words.
Then you can deliver extraordinary speeches invoking truth, ethics, integrity, and moral values without having to traverse the boundaries of nuance. Stand up and show us that you are one of the adults in the room, and the world is your room. That is the prescription for exorcising the demons that obviously haunt you at this stage of your life. You are strategically positioned to make a difference, but you must lead the way through actions as well as words.