During his first speech as Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson warned Thursday morning that he plans to reform the State Department and told his new team to brace for “changes to how things are traditionally done.”
“I remind you that our undertakings are larger than ourselves or our personal careers,” Tillerson said in his introductory speech to State Department employees in Washington, D.C.
Amid dissenting views about the Trump administration’s suspension of the refugee program and the temporary ban on visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries, Tillerson emphasized the importance of rising above politics.
“I know this was a hotly contested election, and we do not all feel the same way about the outcome. Each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs, but we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team,” he said. “Let us be understanding with each other about the times we live in as we focus our energies on our departmental goals.”
Tillerson said the first thing he asks himself every morning is, “Are all of our people safe?”
“The safety of every single member of our State Department family, regardless of where he or she is posted, is not just a priority for me — it’s a core value. And it will become a core value of this department,” he said.
The former Exxon CEO said he will have an unorthodox approach to leading the State Department, but promised he would not make change for the sake of change.
“As secretary, I will deploy the talent and resources of the State Department in the most efficient ways possible,” he said. “That may entail making changes to how things are traditionally done in this department. Change for the sake of change can be counterproductive and that will never be my approach. But we cannot sustain ineffective traditions over optimal outcomes. I will gather information on what processes should be reformed and do my part to make sure that we are productive and efficient.”
Tillerson said he thought he was prepared for “retirement this spring after four decades of business experience” prior to receiving the call to serve from Trump.
“[Tillerson’s wife] Renda [St. Claire] and I were ready to head off to the ranch and enjoy our grandchildren,” the newly confirmed secretary explained. “But when I came back from my first meeting with President Trump and he asked me to do this, Renda said, ‘You didn’t know it but you’ve been in a 41-year training program for this job.’”
“So despite our own dreams, she said you’re supposed to do this. Well, my first day is here, I’m on the job,” he said. “Hi, I’m the new guy.”
There are 248 names on the memorial plaques at the State Department which contains the names of Americans that have died in 64 countries, according to the American Foreign Service Association. Recent additions include the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
Tillerson spent a few extra moments paying tribute to fallen foreign service personnel during his first day on the job.
“They died in service of causes far greater than themselves,” Tillerson told his staff. “As we move forward in a new era, it is important to honor the sacrifices of those who have come before us, and reflect on the legacy that we inherit.”
[This article published by WesternJournalism.com]
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