I know Rex Tillerson. I’ve had hundreds of interactions with him. Rex was the president of the Boy Scouts of America, and I was the commissioner, the top two volunteer positions in the organization. We were partners for two years. We traveled the country together. We hiked the mountains in New Mexico together. We were joined at the hip.
I know Rex will make a superb secretary of state.
I first met him serving on the selection committee to choose the next chief executive officer of the Scouts. Rex was the CEO of ExxonMobil, and I was a lawyer from Orlando, Fla. We were to meet the candidates and had transcripts of video interviews they had previously recorded. I was sitting across from Rex and noticed his transcripts, positively embroidered with highlighting, margin notes, sticky tabs and questions. Looking at mine, there were a couple of notes.
I told him I was amazed he had the time to give it that much thought and attention.
Rex said, “Tico, my father was a professional Boy Scout. I grew up in Scouting. I spent many years on summer camp staff. Everything I learned I learned in Scouting as a young man. This is the most important thing I’m doing right now and it deserves my full attention.” He took that job on and absolutely owned it. He did it with all his heart and all his might.
Over the next several years, I saw Rex in many unguarded situations. We would hike the back country at the Scout camp where we would run into kids. He was always a model of courtesy and respect to every person who approached, whether it was an 8-year-old boy asking him questions, or an 80-year-old guy telling him everything we were doing was wrong because we didn’t do it the way they used to do it.
But no matter who it was, Rex would always make that person believe that his input mattered — because he truly believes that all input mattered. He was always incredibly accessible and warm.
In the boardroom, he reasoned and planned at such a different level than the rest of us. If we were playing chess, I was using one board and he was playing in three dimensions.
Having watched Rex, I know that he lives the Scout Law in his life – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
How do you live the values? You’re a decent human being. You do what you say you’re going to do. Your word is your bond. You value others and let them know they are valued, no matter who they are. You’re loyal to the job you are doing.
And that’s what he’ll do at the State Department.
I know he will bring a well-designed and disciplined plan. He will “be prepared.” He will have a clear understanding of the priorities that need to be achieved. He will satisfy differences, identify common goals and bring people together to accomplish those goals. I know that because I’ve seen him do it.
Rex will become an expert on all sides of every issue so he can reach lasting resolutions that best serve America.
He understands that the better you know the other side of a problem, the better opportunity you have to reach consensus and resolve tough issues.
Rex knows that if you want a true accord where people can move forward in good faith together, and one that survives the test of time, everyone must believe that you considered his positions and that the outcome is based on mutual benefit for all.
This is not brain surgery — it’s the adage that I always try to teach young Scouts: The answer is simple; it’s just not easy.
Treat people with respect and courtesy. Listen to everyone. Engender trust.
These are the skills a diplomat needs. Rex has them.
Rex is going to do everything that is best for our country, because that’s the job he will have and that’s the job he will do – the same way he’s done every job he’s ever had — with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his might.
There is no better choice for secretary of state.
Tico Perez, an attorney in Orlando, Fla., is vice president of diversity for the Boy Scouts of America. He wrote this for the Orlando Sentinel.