In Thursday’s farewell remarks to State Department staff, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked American diplomats and civil servants to be respectful to each other and to carry on the priorities of U.S. national security.
“I’d like to ask each of you undertake to ensure one act of kindness each day towards another person. This can be a very mean-spirited town,” said Tillerson to laughs and applause from department employees. “But you don’t have to choose to participate in that.”
Tillerson did not mention President Donald Trump, who fired him unceremoniously last Tuesday just hours after the top diplomat returned to Washington from a five-nation tour of Africa.
Tillerson maintains the title of secretary of state until his commission terminates at midnight March 31.
“Treat each other with respect, regardless of the job title,” he told the department staff. “Never lose sight of your most valuable asset: your personal integrity.”
Employees gathered in the lobby of the building Thursday to hear Tillerson’s farewell remarks.
Standing behind him were Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, spokeswoman Heather Nauert and Ambassador-at-large for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales.
“I appreciate the secretary’s highlighting the diplomatic work that State Department employees do every day, and the importance of accountability and respect in the workplace,” one employee told VOA.
Another said, “I was encouraged by the secretary’s references to the diligence and devotion career employees have to the State Department’s mission, and to being guided by our values and integrity.”
Tillerson said he had compiled material and provided “updates of how tactics may need to adjust to current circumstances” for his nominated successor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in order to ensure a smooth transition.
Though “all the policies and the strategy should never change, we must constantly review how the tactics are delivering on the objectives,” Tillerson said. “The country faces many challenges in some instances, perplexing foreign affairs relationships, in another instance, serious national security threats.”
Tillerson’s departure barely 14 months into the Trump administration puts him on a short list of high-level government officials whose tenures have been incredibly brief.
Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services last September after allegedly chartering expensive planes at government expense.
“The firing of Tillerson continues a pattern of instability for department heads in Trump’s administration,” Eric Ostermeier, a fellow with the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, told VOA on Thursday.
“Tillerson left office quicker than nearly every other president’s first pick for secretary of state in history,” Ostermeier said. “For historical perspective, the average tenure of a U.S. president serving alongside his first secretary of state is three years, four months, eight days.”
Source: Voice of America