Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
William J. Burns Auditorium
Washington, DC
January 12, 2018

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you, Joel, and it’s always a privilege to attend one of these events, and I do try to make any of them when I’m in town, because I think it’s really important that you understand how important you are to the department and how important you are to me in terms of carrying out our mission. So it really is a privilege to get – to be a part of celebrating this milestone with you, and again, welcome to friends and family that are here to encourage you on this next step that you’re taking. We’re grateful to all who have supported you in getting this far along with you and welcome them.Your class represents, they tell me, 14 bureaus, including several passport Diplomatic Security officers. You have a diverse background among your class, which is great, because that really strengthens our department as well. And some of you come from around the country, from I think far away as the West Coast in Seattle to down south in Houston, a town that’s quite familiar to me; New Orleans, New York. So welcome. And I think this really enriches our organization when we have the kind of diversity representation and representation around the country, because we really do project the face of America here at the State Department, and so we represent the face of the American people. So really pleased to see this class as well.

Some of you I know also have other experience in parts – in serving in government, and as I understand it, some of you have been serving now for some months or even years. But we’re – in particular, we’re really pleased that you’ve chosen to continue serving our country as a part of our State Department organization family.

The first day I arrived here at the State Department, which is almost a year ago now, I asked that all of the colleagues of mine in the State Department keep a few values in mind, and they’re pretty simple and straightforward, but they are very important in my view as to our success. And I just came from a speech a little earlier this morning where I talked in particular about the importance of values and how they really guide the way we deal with one another and how we carry out our mission. So they’re incredibly important to us being an effective and successful organization, so let me just say a few words about those.

First is accountability. We need to hold each other and ourselves accountable, and that means when things go well, let’s celebrate together. Let’s celebrate that success. And when things don’t go well, let’s learn from those mistakes, let’s rebuild and move forward, and together we’ll all benefit from being honest about where we made those mistakes.

And second, accountability requires that we be very open and honest with one another about our strengths, about our weaknesses, about how we can serve each other and work within our own work groups but also in the groups that we interface with and certainly – and we’re delivering the mission and we interface with the rest of the world, important as well. And it’s important that we have the ability to have these candid conversations so that we all can understand how to just be better every day.

And then finally, and this is the subject I wanted to spend time on this morning in the earlier discussion – excuse me, I’ve got one of these colds everybody’s suffering with – it’s how we promote a very positive work environment by the way we treat one another, and that we treat one another with respect, and the importance of how we treat each other every day and every encounter and respecting that each of us have an important role to play. And it doesn’t matter what your title that you may carry, it doesn’t matter what your responsibilities are, they’re all important to the success of our mission, and respecting what each other has to do to carry out their work, but how they do it and how we can work in a very positive way with one another.

So it’s pretty simple. It’s just how do we value each other and how do you want to be valued, and I think it’s really pretty simple in terms of how we take care of each other. And that value of respect really reinforces the other two values of taking care of one another’s safety, security, and accountability, honesty, and integrity.

So it’s really important to me that you commit yourself to those values, but not just commit yourself to those values, but that you practice them. Put them into practice every day. I have these conversations with people, and they’ll oftentimes say well, gee, that’s – of course we do that. But what I observe is that we’re all human beings and we make mistakes and we don’t always practice them. We think we are committed to them, but then in our daily lives we don’t actually put them into practice. And more importantly, that we reinforce to our colleagues that this is the way we all want to work and help them practice them as well. So I really encourage you to keep them in mind and live those out.

So at this point, let me ask you to join me on the stage so that I can administer the oath. So you all come up. I hope we have a choreographer to tell everybody where to stand. (Laughter.) Yeah, I think everybody’s – there we go, we’re getting everybody up. They’re saying get cozy.

So as you take the oath, and as those that are here witness this with you, family, friends, and colleagues, I think it’s important that we remember the solemn nature of this oath. The United States Congress prescribed an oath as one of its first legislative acts over two centuries ago, establishing a bond between the American people and those of us who have committed ourselves to service to the American people. This is the same oath of office that all of our colleagues have taken as well as the Vice President, federal judges, members of Congress, military officers, and all cabinet members, myself included. So if you’ll please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

(The oath was administered.)

It’s my honor to be the first to congratulate each of you as members of the 148th Civil Service Orientation Class. Please join me in honoring them. (Applause.)

U.S. Department of State

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