Rex Tillerson was sworn in as secretary of state by US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office on February 1 after the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed by the Senate in a 56-to-43 vote to become the nation’s 69th secretary of state. All 52 Republicans, as well as four Democrats, voted in favor.
According to the New York Times, the votes against Tillerson’s confirmation were the most in Senate history for a secretary of state, a reflection of Democratic unease with Trump’s early foreign policy pronouncements.
Trump said Tillerson understood “the importance of strengthening our alliances and forming new alliances to enhance our strategic interests and the safety of our people”.
In a tweet, Trump congratulated Tillerson and said he is very excited for him, his family and the country.
In January, Tillerson testified at his Senate confirmation hearing about his possible conflicts involving ExxonMobil, his position regarding US sanctions against Russia and his views on climate change. Tillerson’s close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin have generated controversy, especially after Russia’s alleged involvement in the US election hacking. In 2014, Tillerson strongly opposed the sanctions against Russia.
Tillerson will have to tackle many challenges, including issues involving Syria, Iran, Russia, Ukraine North Korea and global terrorism.
He spent most of his life working for Exxon – all the way from a university graduate to the chairman of the board for the last ten years. An engineer, Tillerson joined ExxonMobil in 1975 and served as the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company from 2006 to 2016. He began his career as an engineer and holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tillerson joined Exxon in 1975, and by 1989 had become general manager of the Exxon USA central production division. In 1995, he became president of Exxon Yemen Inc. and Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc. In 2006, Tillerson was elected chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon, the world’s sixth largest company by revenue. He retired from Exxon effective December 31, 2016 around two weeks after Trump announced that he would be his nominee for US Secretary of State.