Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, on February 12, 2018.
President Donald Trump's first secretary of state took a veiled jab at his former boss Wednesday, telling graduates of the Virginia Military Institute to vigilantly defend the truth.
It is the "responsibility of every American citizen to protect our freedom by recognising what truth is and is not", Mr Tillerson said on Thursday (Wednesday US time).
Tillerson warned of a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity" reflected upon American democracy.
"It is truth that says to our adversaries, 'We say what we mean, and we mean what we say, '" Tillerson said.
"This is the life of non-Democratic societies, comprised of people who are not free to seek the truth", Tillerson said.
Trump and Tillerson had a tumultuous relationship, with the former ExxonMobil CEO counselling Trump against following through on some of his more controversial policy decisions, including pulling out of the Iran deal.
"When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America".
Mr Tillerson, a Texan and the chief executive of energy company ExxonMobil for a decade before joining Trump's administration, was replaced with Central Intelligence Agency directer Mike Pompeo, who has since made two trips to North Korea to hold discussions with Kim. During his time at the State Department, Tillerson instituted hiring freezes and cut costs leading to what was called "a decapitation of its leadership ranks", by Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Social media users had a lot to say about the address.
Former State Department special adviser and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow claimed on Tuesday evening that Tillerson admitted that he wasn't prepared for the job, "Tillerson, if he had any logic, knew that he was going to be fired on some level", Farrow told Seth Meyers on Late Night.
"But a warning to you as you leave this place - a place where the person sitting on either side of you shares that understanding", Tillerson said.
"Look for employers who set high standards for ethical conduct".
Tillerson appeared to say that his own integrity is intact, even as he made joking reference to what was widely seen as his humiliating treatment by Trump. Blessed is the man who does not try to blame all of his failures on someone else.