Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that he wants to focus diplomacy on making Americans safer and more prosperous, and said that would guide his decision as he pursues an "America First" foreign policy.

"[America first means] strengthening our national security and promoting economic prosperity for the American people, and we do that with a lot of partners," Tillerson said Wednesday morning.

Tillerson offered that definition during an address to the State Department staff, in which he attempted to ease worries that the professional diplomatic corps might have about Trump's policies. It was Tillerson's second address to State Department staff, following weeks of criticism that he has been a silent secretary of state.

He also used the speech to explain how to proceed when American policy interests are in tension with human rights goals.

"In some circumstances, we should and do condition our policy engagements on people adopting certain actions as to how they treat people," he said. "We should demand that. But that doesn't mean that's the case in every situation."

Tillerson said that advancing national security, economic prosperity, and human rights simultaneously is the most difficult problem he's contemplated as leader of the State Department.

"If we [demand] too heavily that others must adopt this value that we've come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests or our economic interests," he said. "It doesn't mean that we leave those values on the sidelines. It doesn't mean that we don't advocate for and aspire to freedom and human dignity and the freedom of the people the world over. We do. We will always have that on our shoulder, everywhere we go."