When Donald Trump announced Rex Tillerson as his choice for Secretary of State, the Exxon Mobil CEO underwent heavy criticism.
Much of the media hammered Tillerson for his deep-ties to Russia and personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.
Yet, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had great things to say about Tillerson, via Politico:
“Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America’s special role in the world.”
While America hasn’t heard much from Tillerson himself, Emily Roden — a business owner in Texas — served on a jury with him. To be clear: Roden is not a Trump supporter.
However, in an op-ed for the Dallas News, Roden felt like people needed to know about her eye-opening experience with Tillerson.
At first, Roden had no idea she was serving on a jury with Tillerson:
From the first day of jury selection, we all noticed another suited man always present in the courtroom. His presence was intriguing due to the ear piece in his ear.
While grabbing lunch at Denton County Independent Hamburger on the square the second day of the trial, we noticed this mysterious man dining with our fellow juror who’d declined the foreman spot. The intrigue grew, and it was the talk of the jury: Who were these men?
Finally, during a break in the jury room, one juror had the nerve to ask: “Who are you? And what do you do?”
Our fellow jury member was reading the paper again and pointed out an article with Exxon in the headlines.
I work for them, he said humbly. There are a lot of people in this world who hate me for what I do, so they give me and my family guys like that to protect me.
But when it came time for the verdict, there was a problem:
The trial concluded, and it was time for the jury to deliberate. The story was heartbreaking, and the facts of the case were clear enough to make the majority of the jury convinced of the guilt of this sexual offender of a little girl. But the defense did a good enough job to create a couple of hold-outs. As our deliberations came to a close, it appeared we might have a hung jury.
That’s when Tillerson began to speak. Humbly, delicately and without an ounce of condescension toward those who disagreed, he began walking us all through the details of the case. I even recall being moved by his thorough explanation about the nature of doubt and the standards set forth by our justice system.
With great patience, this man who strikes multibillion-dollar deals with foreign heads of state brought our scrappy jury together — to bring a sexual predator to justice and to deliver justice for a scared and deeply wounded little girl.
Something struck a chord in Roden after that, so she decided to make contact with Tillerson:
A local nonprofit was instrumental in fostering that young girl through this process, providing her counseling and legal help. I was so struck by their mission that I toured their facility the week after the case to learn how I could donate and volunteer to their cause.
On a whim, I decided to reach out to Tillerson to encourage him to do the same. I found an email for him online and sent him a note, touting the role this agency played in our trial and urging him to consider supporting the great work they do.
To my surprise, I received an email back thanking me for my note and my jury service, and ensuring me that he would contact the agency.
I later received a call from the director of that nonprofit to let me know that Tillerson followed through and gave a generous donation.
She added the reason she is speaking up. “But during a recent news show, I heard the term ‘corrupt’ applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007. All I know is that this man who holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side-step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense.”
Roden finished by making a powerful point, “I know that a scared little girl who was finally persuaded to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a noble use, and justice was served.”