Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was dramatically fired from his post in the Trump administration via tweet by the president, looked back on his time in public service when delivering remarks at the at the Boy Scouts of America National Annual Meeting in Aurora, Colorado.
While he didn't criticize President Trump in his speech, he looked back on his time serving as Secretary of State, saying that, "God was talking to me through my wife when I was about to retire from Exxon Mobil Corp., and then president-elect Donald Trump asked me to serve as the 69th Secretary of State."
He later joked, presumably on his untimely departure from the Cabinet, "I'm also certain God sent me home from D.C to literally save my life."
Tillerson was removed as secretary of state and replaced with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, after months of speculation surrounding Tillerson's role in the Trump administration. Tillerson only learned his ouster was official when the announcement was made on social media.
Tillerson served as the keynote speaker at the organization's "Duty to God" breakfast. The meeting serves as the organization's annual "shareholders meeting" for staff and volunteers.
During his remarks, Tillerson discussed how he experienced constant stomach pain while serving as secretary. He noted that the pain briefly went away once he left office, but shortly returned. It was later discovered to be a stage two cancer tumor, which he says he had surgery to remove.
Without pointing fingers at the current commander-in-chief, he also discussed the current state of politics and democracy in the U.S. Tillerson openly questioned, "how did our nation of fellow Americans become so polarized, and how do we return to civility and respectfulness towards one another?" He said that he observed a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity" in American democracy.
That led to a long discussion on "truthfulness."
"If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as a people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on the pathway to forfeiting our freedoms," he said. Tillerson then went on to single out Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as countries where people are "not free to seek the truth."
Tillerson also referenced the "better angels of our nature" twice in his speech. While most likely a reference to President Lincoln's first inaugural address, the line was also frequently used by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who also left the Trump administration citing differences in viewpoints with Mr. Trump.
Tillerson's connection to the Boy Scouts runs deep. His father served as an executive with the group and Tillerson earned the rank of Eagle Scout in his early teens. He would go on to serve as the organization's president from 2010-2012. In a February 2018 "60 Minutes" interview with Margaret Brennan, he discussed the role scouting played in his life.
At the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, a statue was unveiled in Tillerson's honor. A leadership development center bearing his name is currently under construction on the jamboree site, which will play host to the World Scout Jamboree later this year.
That statue dedication and visit occurred just days before Mr. Trump addressed the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, a speech that caused some controversy as the president's remarks strayed into partisan politics several times.