With US President Donald Trump increasingly isolated over his response to white nationalist violence in Virginia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a broad condemnation of racism on Friday and promised to make his department more racially diverse.
Trump is facing a widening backlash among fellow Republicans, business leaders and even sports stars since the violence last Saturday in the Virginia city of Charlottesville arising from a rally by white nationalists. The crisis could further imperil his policy agenda, which includes tax cuts.
Tillerson invoked the 1865 second inaugural address by Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves and presided over the Civil War against rebellious pro-slavery Confederate Southern states. As the war drew to a close, Lincoln asked the nation to bind up its wounds from the conflict, Tillerson noted.
"We, too, today should seek to bind up the wounds," Tillerson told participants in a State Department fellowship program.
"We must pursue reconciliation, understanding and respect regardless of skin color, ethnicity or religious or political views."
Tillerson, who was CEO of oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp before becoming secretary of state this year, said one of America's defining characteristics "is the promise of the opportunity for advancement regardless of your skin color, how much money your parents make or where you came from."