Listen to the 10 min audio
Read the transcript:
REX TILLERSON ON HOW TO KEEP COUNTRY FROM GOING “WOBBLY”
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, there’s a little town in Virginia which you’ve visited many times, Lexington, Virginia, the home of Washington and Lee College but also the home of the Virginia Military Institute. It was at that place that former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was invited to come and give the commencement speech to the students.
He said, “If our leaders are to conceal the truth or we, as people, become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we, as America citizens, are on the pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”
He went on to say, “If we, as a people — a free people — go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem to be the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on America.”
DR. REEDER: Well, yeah, wobbly until it all falls down. Now, I know everybody is reading this as a statement he is making concerning his previous boss, which is the president of the United States when he served as secretary of state, and I think that deserves analysis but that’s not where I want to go today.
I think the removal of Secretary of State Tillerson, while he was on a mission by the president and his claim he did not know that was going to happen, that certainly is an interesting story of leadership, and this particular president’s style and Mr. Tillerson, who has come out of the corporate world in order to be the Secretary of State at the request of President Trump.
And I think that’s a story, but what I think he’s done is put his finger on something very, very truthful. It’s interesting that it should be done in that particular area because you’ve got Virginia Military Institute and you’ve got, next to it, Washington and Lee College, both of which have very stringent honor codes and, noteworthy, continue to this day, to some degree, both of those colleges.
OUR COUNTRY’S LEGACY IS OF UPRIGHT LEADERS
One of the previous presidents, as many know, of Washington and Lee College was Robert E. Lee and, in his presidency, he was asked about the honor code. And he affirmed it, but then he said, “Really, you only need one and that is you ought to conduct yourself as a Christian gentleman.” And by the way, these are student-affirmed and student-enforced in both cases.
Here’s the way Jesus said it: Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t be nuanced, trying to technically say the right thing but communicate the wrong thing or don’t say the right thing in the wrong way.
The way I try to say it is this: Say what you mean, mean what you say and never be mean when you say it. And that’s what I think Tillerson is saying, at least on the say what you mean and mean what you say.
LACK OF TRUST IN POLITICIANS IS THE NORM NOW
When a leader says something, it’s got to be trustworthy. It has become almost accepted fact the proverbial, “How do you know when a politician is lying? If he’s moving his mouth.” And, while that’s a joke, it is also a very sad joke.
It ought to be the exact opposite. Our first president, now, whether he actually cut down that cherry tree or not and then turned himself in… but the fact that things like that develop around a man tells you something about the man. And the story of Abraham Lincoln, who walked all those miles to return the coin because it wasn’t his — the stories abound of the truthfulness and trustworthiness.
You can’t be trustworthy if you can’t tell the truth and one of the things that is so important for a country such as this one that is based upon law is that, if you lose trust in those who lead you, then everything goes wobbly.
TRUST IN LEADERSHIP VS LEADERSHIP CRISIS
Well, how do you attempt to undo the wobbliness? Well, what happens in a country like ours is the same thing that happens in a family and the same thing that happens in a business and, by the way — since I’m a pastor — the same thing that happens in a church. If you lose trust in the soul and the gravitas and the truthfulness of your leaders and your leadership, once you lose that trust, the next step is to multiply legislation and regulations in order to attempt to maintain order.
And so, what do you see in our country now? You see reems and reems and reems of regulations, and legislations and lawsuits and that’s how the country now tries to maintain order. It used to be you didn’t need a 20-page contract — it was a handshake.
It used to be you could just write it out on a page and, “Is that what you said?” “Yeah, that’s what I said,” “Is that what you said?” “Yeah.” “Alright, let’s sign it.” You didn’t have to have 15 different statements for 13 different agencies to sign and seal and get a notary in order to cover any possible loopholes when the reality is, once you get into legislation and regulation to cover loopholes because people aren’t trustworthy, well, those same people just create more loopholes and now you’ve multiplied more legislation and regulation.
If a company, if a church, if a family has leaders that are trustworthy and that speak the truth, are reliable and you know that, what they’re saying, they actually say what they mean, mean what they say and would never be mean when they say it, then you don’t need all of those regulations and you don’t need all of that legislation and you certainly don’t need all of the lawsuits in order to try to restrain people.
Therefore, Mr. Tillerson’s statement is that a nation goes wobbly if its leaders do not speak the truth and speak the truth in terms of what actually is really happening — this is reality, we don’t have an alternate reality that we’re trying to create verbally. Here is what’s happening, here are the facts and then people are trustworthy to affirm them and to report them.
INTEGRITY-FILLED JOURNALISTS ARE CRITICAL, TOO
By the way, not only in the three branches of our government do we need that kind of leadership — in the judicial, in the legislative and in the executive branch on the local, state and national level — but, Tom, we need it in what many have called the fourth estate of our government and that is journalism.
To have journalists who do their work well and report facts factually, that is also a blessing. And our founding fathers knew that was important, which is why they created the freedom of the press to hold people accountable and the free practice of religion to mature and maintain our freedoms and call people to truthfulness and trustworthiness.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.