QUESTION: Well, good morning, Mike. First and foremost, how does it feel to be back in Kansas not too long from your last trip, which was back in March?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be back. Physically, it does feel different to me. It’s home, it’s familiar. I’m around people that I know and love, and it’s great to be back.
QUESTION: So, of course, coming back to Kansas, there’s always speculation, so we’ll just get it out of the way early. Talk to me about: Are we going to see Pompeo on a ticket next year?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m still focused on what I’m doing, Lily. I see the noise, I hear it, but my mission set every day is very clear. I intend to stay in this current role just as long as President Trump says, “I want you to be my most senior diplomat.” That’s the mission set.
I came back to Kansas for this incredible privilege to give a lecture at K-State as part of the Landon Lecture Series where amazing people – presidents and all kinds of great leaders – have had the opportunity to come. Mikhail Gorbachev – he had this opportunity to speak to K-Staters and people of this community. And I’m really looking forward to it.
QUESTION: Talking about that Landon Lecture, talk about the key message you want – especially the students – to walk away with today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The primary message that I’ll talk about today is don’t take for granted the great and exceptional nature of the United States of America. We have these unalienable rights. And I’ll talk about that that’s kind of an awkward word, unalienable, but our founders thought about it an awful lot. The basic concepts of life and liberty are things we have to protect and work to preserve. And everyone – every young person in that auditorium today – has a responsibility to help us do that. And I want to talk about how central they are to the American idea and how we must execute on that here so that we can deliver American foreign policy around the world.
QUESTION: And how is that committee coming along, the committee on unalienable rights?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s making progress. I hope by the end of the year – maybe it’ll be the turn of next year – it will deliver a document that re-anchors us in that tradition. Our founders didn’t get everything perfect, but these central ideas that they expounded, and a nation that’s now been built around them, is something we need to remind ourselves of. And my team all around the world needs to have that as its guidepost as it tries to execute our diplomatic mission all around the globe.
QUESTION: Obviously, since we’re talking about unalienable rights and the reason why people might come to this country, I myself am an immigrant from Guatemala. I know you had the chance to speak with the president-elect of Guatemala —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Just yesterday, yeah.
QUESTION: — just yesterday. Can you talk about, I guess, the stance on immigration? And obviously, how Guatemala is kind of responding to how we as Americans are responding to immigration?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I spend a fair amount of time working with my counterpart in Mexico, Foreign Minister Ebrard, the Northern Triangle countries – Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. I was down – I met the brand new El Salvadoran president. That’s been just a couple of weeks ago now.
I think they understand too the same thing that President Trump’s been talking about. We want to make sure that people can be successful where they grew up, where they’re with their families, where they’re with their traditions. We want to help those countries be successful at that. At the same time, President Trump feels a deep commitment to fulfill the promises he made. We said we’re going to make sure that America is a sovereign nation and that we have the rule of law and that people who come here do so lawfully, do so under the set of rules that, frankly, every country in the world demands. America, for an awful long time, has allowed that not to be the case.
Lily, I remember when I was a member of Congress, people would call our office from all around the world – from Asia or from Europe or from Africa – and say, “I want to be – I want to come to America.” And we wanted to help them. We wanted them to come be part of this great experiment. But it would take years. And one of the reasons it did is because we had the inability to deliver on lawful legal migration in a way that made sense, because we hadn’t gotten right the part about securing America’s borders. We aim to do both things. President Trump is focused on both things, and so is the United States Department of State.
QUESTION: And like, kind of talking about along the lines of other countries – Asia specifically – China-U.S. trade obviously is the hot topic. I wanted to kind of hear more about how we’re putting America first, but still trying to position ourselves in a smart position.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Well, it’s a great question because it’s been a focus of mine and of President Trump’s as well. I was harkened back to my time. I would travel around the state and meet with manufacturers and farmers. The Chinese Government was stealing their intellectual property, or China was denying them the ability to sell their corn and their soybeans and their dairy products or their manufactured goods into their country. It’s not fair. It’s not fair to Kansans, it’s not fair to Americans.
And President Trump took office when that was the state of play, and he was determined to fix it. And so we’re engaged in that. Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin and Ambassador Lighthizer are both negotiating with China just to ask for some simple things: Don’t steal Kansans’ intellectual property. If a Kansan wants to sell their product to someone in western China, let them do it, the same way that if you’re in China and you want to sell your product here in Kansas, you can do that today.
We’re looking for a set of fair, reciprocal trade arrangements that will let both countries grow and prosper and thrive. That’s all that President Trump is asking for. It’s difficult. The Chinese Government doesn’t want that to happen, and so we’ll continue to work on that project. It is essential that we get this right. To protect the American people and Kansans for the next generation, we have to get our relationship with China rebalanced in a way that is fair to America.
QUESTION: And talking about Kansas farmers, obviously, maybe some are suffering at this moment in time. What is your message to them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump and I and, frankly, everyone in our administration, anytime anyone is suffering, whether it’s a farmer or manufacturer or someone who loses their job, it’s not a good thing. But we got to get this right.
America’s economy is growing, it’s leading the world in economic growth. We’ve got job numbers that are really good over our two and a half years of a successful economy. That’s the mission set. President Trump has tried to account for some of the challenges that have happened in the agriculture community over the last year, year and a half. He’s provided resources under Secretary of Agriculture Perdue.
But remember, I know what farmers have suffered under from China. When I was a congressman for six years, I saw it. I want Kansas farmers to know we’re going to fix that, we’re going to get it right for them, and they’re going to have a billion and a half people inside of China and a market that is incredibly important for the next 10, 20, 30 years that they’ll have access to because of what this administration achieves.
QUESTION: And aviation, obviously, very big in Wichita. The 737 MAX grounding – that’s something that we wanted to hear. How is that being perceived, I guess, with so many different countries that you get to visit?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s a big deal. There were a number of countries that had significant orders of 737 MAXs all around the world and they haven’t been able to take delivery on those airplanes. I’m confident the Boeing company will get this right. I hope they’ll just do it as quickly as they can. We need to get those airplanes back into the air not only so people can fly and have the transportation they need, but you know this: A lot of jobs all around Kansas depend on that 737 line continuing to crank on. I hope they get it right. I hope they get it right quickly. It’ll be a good thing for Kansans, for America, and, indeed, for these countries around the world who are trying to grow their economy by buying great American-built aircraft.
QUESTION: So what’s keeping U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo up at night, whether in Eastern Hemisphere, Western Hemisphere, or Middle East right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re working lots of opportunities. We’re trying to convince Chairman Kim to complete the promise that he made back in June of last year to President Trump that said he would denuclearize. We’re focused on Afghanistan too – we want to get that right. We have to protect America from terrorism threats, but we’ve had an awful lot of boys and girls killed there and we want to make sure we strike the right balance. Iran continues its malign behavior all around the world. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on that. The list of opportunities is long, but as long as we stay focused, as long as we understand that America is a force for good around the world and that our first mission as diplomats is to protect the American people and deliver on an “America First” foreign policy that respects our founding, Americans will continue to be successful. And we’ll do good work not only for the people here, but for people all around the world as well.
QUESTION: And just days away from 9/11, the anniversary. 18 years. Anything that you want to say to the military families that are still serving abroad?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Almost two decades on now. I still think of that day and get angry. Angry over what took place here. I want to tell every one of those families: We have lost lots of young men and women in these last now almost two decades. I want to thank every one of them for their service, everyone who stepped forward and said, “Take me. I’ll serve.” I want to thank them for their service.
We lost an American yet again yesterday in Afghanistan, a member of the 82nd Airborne. These are proud people, great people. I want to thank them for their service, and I want them to know that the Trump administration is doing everything we can to make sure they have the tools and resources – we’ll have the largest defense budget in American history next year – that they have the tools and resources to take care of themselves and their families and to deliver on American defense.
QUESTION: Any final message that you have for Kansans? I know many of them still miss Mike and Susan.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, we love this place. We hope one day that we’ll get the chance to get back here and rejoin our friends and family back in Kansas, and I want to thank them too. They’ve set a good course, a good grounding for me and for Susan as we’ve entered this opportunity to serve America in a way that we never dreamed of. Kansas has provided a great set of values for me. I talk about it in Cairo and Bangkok, I talk about Kansas, because we do know it’s such a great place.
QUESTION: Missing Shocker basketball? Any hopes for that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Desperately. We are hoping we get back for a game this spring. We hoped that last year too and didn’t make it, but this year perhaps we’ll do better. Go Shocks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Lily.