In a brief, pointed, televised speech to his staff, Tillerson called on them to “undertake one act of kindness each day towards another person,” noting, “This can be a very mean-spirited town.”
He also used the spotlight to deliver the loaded message that personal integrity is one’s most valuable asset.
“Only you can relinquish it or allow it to be compromised. Once you have done so, it is very very hard to regain it,” Tillerson warned members of Trump’s administration, advising them to “guard it as the most precious thing you possess.”
To Tillerson’s point, Trump tweeted in mid-March that he’d sacked the former ExxonMobile CEO. But, keeping it classy, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told reporters, in an off-the-record gaggle, that he had broken the news to Tillerson ahead of the tweet, while Tillerson, fighting an overseas travel bug, was on the toilet. This according to reporters who’d said they’d been shut out of the exclusive off-the-record huddle, and got their information from those who had attended but were bound by the OTR rule of the invite not to publish themselves.
In today’s speech to staff (though sure to be seen by Trump), Tillerson said he hopes they will continue to be guided every day by the values they have spoken about during his not-quite-a-year tenure including safety, accountability, honesty and, most importantly, personal integrity.
“Never lose sight of your most valuable asset,” Tillerson said, in re personal integrity.
“Not one of you was gifted it. You were born with it. It belongs to you, always has and will belong to you and you alone,” he said.
“And finally I hope you continue to treat each other with respect. Regardless of job title station in life or your role, everyone is important to the State Department; we’re all just human beings trying to do our part,” Tillerson added.
It was Tillerson’s closing shot that got reporters’ ears up.
“In closing I would like to ask that ask each of you undertake one act of kindness each day towards another person. This can be a very mean-spirited town,” he said in a masterstroke of understatement, getting laughs followed by big applause.
“But you don’t have to chose to participate in that,” he added, getting even bigger applause.
“Each of us gets to chose the person we want to be, and the way we wanted to be treated and the way we will treat others.”