In his first major address since leaving Washington after he was sacked in March, Tillerson told graduates at the Virginia Military Institute to remember the importance of integrity and honesty.
In remarks to graduates of the Virginia Military Institute, Tillerson lamented assaults on facts that he said would lead to a loss of freedom if not countered.
In his speech, Tillerson said a commitment to facts cements United States alliances with other democracies worldwide.
After Tillerson's speech, some journalists took to Twitter the former secretary of state a hypocrite, accusing him of purposefully obscuring the truth while working for Trump.
Tillerson was removed as Secretary of State after a tempestuous year in office, a period of time in which relations between him and Trump allegedly became incredibly strained.
"A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not, and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness", Tillerson told the assembly. The two had apparently fought on many matters, including whether undertaking negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were worth it, with the president posting that Mr Tillerson was "wasting his time".
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Numerous others, including Ricky Ponting, Michael Holding , Ian Botham, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh , have also endorsed the idea. It makes for good tension, everyone is focused on that coin when it's in the air and the winning captain's decision and so on.
It is only by "fierce defense of the truth and common sets of facts that we create the conditions for a Democratic, free society comprised of richly diverse peoples", he said.
Tillerson did not explicitly mention Trump by name during his address Wednesday but warned against accepting "alternative realities" unhinged from the truth - a possible allusion to the "alternative facts" the White House proposed after Trump lied about crowd sizes at his inauguration.
Tillerson's most powerful theme, however, was the importance of standing up for the truth. "If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector ... then American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years".
His message to graduates was to join organizations or work at companies that value integrity, and "Look for employers who set high standards for personal conduct and who reward ethical leadership".
Tillerson was criticized for his failure to fill rank-and-file jobs, his perceived aloofness and failure to maintain alliances.
Trump replaced Tillerson with former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is markedly more hawkish than Tillerson, particularly on Iran.