QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you for your time this morning. How does it feel to back in Kansas, in Wichita?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s always great to be back home. Susan and I got in last night, and it feels great and wonderful. It’s wonderful to be with you this morning, too.
QUESTION: This is the third time now that you’re here in Kansas this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about this visit, and why the frequency?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, this visit’s really special. I’m here with Senior Advisor Trump. She and I are going to be out today at Textron talking about the importance of training the private sector and developing training systems for our people, to make sure that they have the skills and talents and that they’re ready to go to build the next generation of the American workforce. It’s vital to American diplomacy that we do that well and do it right. Without a strong and robust economy, I can’t succeed as a diplomat around the world.
So it will be a lot of fun, and to be back out at an aerospace manufacturing facility will be great fun today, too.
QUESTION: Obviously, you have strong ties to Wichita and aviation, so this is just basically coming home, really, for you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: In so many ways. We’ve seen a handful of friends across the weekend. We had a secondary purpose; my son’s best friend is getting married this weekend, so we’ll be at the wedding on Saturday, and then we’ll go to church at the church that we belong to on Sunday morning, and then back to Washington.
QUESTION: So you’ve got a lot of things going on. Today is WSU Tech and Textron. But kind of talk to me about other things that you’ll be doing on Friday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So tomorrow, Susan and I are going to go back out to her alma mater, Wichita State. It’ll be a lot of fun. We’ll have a couple meetings in the morning, and then the highlight of the day will be being with some Wichita State students and talking to them, taking some of their questions. I’m really looking forward to getting back on campus. It’s been way too long since I’ve been out there.
QUESTION: You’re a big Shocker fan.
SECRETARY POMPEO: My wife and I both are. She’s a grad, and I’m a Shocker fan.
QUESTION: And obviously, the team is about to start their season.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This week, right?
QUESTION: Any advice that you have for them, or what do you want to talk – tell them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh my goodness, no, I would just want to wish them luck. No advice. I’ve got to plenty to think about and work on. I’ll leave it to the professionals and these talented young people and these great students out at Wichita State to do well. I wish them luck this season.
QUESTION: A lot of people say the Shocker team has great leadership. And since we’re going to talk about leadership as well, kind of tell me about some of the things that you want people to walk away with about your type of leadership style.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think it’s fundamental in every organization – whether it’s a basketball team or the small business that I ran here in Kansas or now my leadership of the State Department – that you make sure you bring a talented, diverse workforce. You give them authority, you give them responsibility, you train and empower them so that they can perform their mission, and that they understand clearly what it is you’re trying to do. A basketball game, it’s really clear. In diplomacy, sometimes less so. But that’s the mission set as a leader is to make sure that everyone understands the direction that you want the organization to go, and then they have the ability to deliver against it.
QUESTION: Talking more about leadership, you obviously lead the State Department. You have a lot of people that you lead over. Tell me about – what’s the message that you have for anyone that is under your leadership?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it’s always this: We have this fundamental responsibility. We live in this most exceptional nation. We’ve been incredibly privileged. Our founders set a course that is unique in the world. Our mission at the State Department is to deliver against President Trump’s priorities, to make sure that we’re doing this right in the true American tradition of diplomacy, and to keep the American people safe and secure. If we do our jobs well, we’ll have to put fewer young men and women in harm’s way in the military, and we reduce the risk to our people back home, and we can continue to do the things we love to do in places like here in Kansas and take care of our families, grow our economy, all the things that Americans value.
QUESTION: And those are all great things, but I know that there’s challenges. Can you talk about some of the difficulties that you’ve had to face lately?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Look, there’s a lot of noise in Washington, D.C., to be sure. But that’s been true in lots of parts of my life, and in frankly everyone’s life. The mission set’s really clear. My – just like when I was a young tank platoon leader now 30-plus years ago, every day I get up very focused on the mission, working to achieve and trying to help the team build around that, making sure we have the right people in the right places to achieve the ends. The noise can go; it can come. You have to stay focused on the mission. If you do that, most often you’ll get a good outcome.
QUESTION: You talked about retention of talent and hiring good talent. That’s also something that in aviation we talk about, retention of talent, keeping talent in Wichita. How can you do that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Talent retention is all about two or three things, right. People want to be appreciated in the work they do, they want to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams – everyone’s got a different vision of what that looks like for themselves, so you have to make sure you have a methodology by which you can understand what it is they want to do. The team then needs to be focused on helping them achieve that. And I have found people, too, love to be part of teams. So it’s not about me or I, it’s about the mission of the organization. So this gets back to understanding the mission. If they understand that mission and they can measure their commitment to that, their contribution to that, you can find people who want to come do great work on behalf of whatever organization that may be.
QUESTION: Another great leader would be Senator Bob Dole. Who is that to you? And talk about leadership with him.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Senator Dole has become a dear friend; so has his wife, Elizabeth. They are the model for what Kansans aspire to be: honest, hardworking, committed. He was a patriot who served America in the armed forces at a very difficult time in our nation’s history. Today he is back in Washington. I get a chance to see him with some frequency, and he always reminds me to go back to first principles, these central ideas of telling the truth, working hard, keeping your faith. And then he always asks me about stuff back here in Kansas and what’s going on, and we have a good discussion about that. We love the Doles dearly.
QUESTION: You were talking about the administration. Can I ask you a little bit about obviously this impeachment inquiry? You talked about noise. Can you talk a little bit about maybe some misconceptions, or clearing the record on anything?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to spend time talking about this inquiry. We have a foreign policy with respect to Ukraine that is important. We want to make sure that the Ukrainian people understand that they have America’s support. This administration’s done that. The previous administration refused to provide defensive weapon systems to the people of Ukraine, allowing them to continue to be exposed to Russian forces that have taken Crimea and the Donbas region, the southeast part of Ukraine. This administration has reversed that. We have sent this support to the Ukrainian people. They’ve got a new leader there in Mr. Zelensky, and we’re very hopeful that the corruption that has plagued Ukraine’s economy for so long will be reduced under his leadership, and that we can find a path forward to reduce the conflict and restore Ukraine to the proud nation that it can be.
QUESTION: What’s the message for Kansans? You’re back in Kansas, so there’s obviously speculation. Tell us what you want to tell Kansans.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s just really straightforward. We love being back here. It’s been a lot of fun. When the trip was announced earlier this week, we got notes and messages from friends all across – from our church, from people who worked with me at Thayer Aerospace. It’s been great. People have been really kind. They know it’s a crazy, busy schedule, and they’ve all just said welcome home, glad to have you back for a few days, keep on trucking.
QUESTION: How long will we see you in this seat versus the one that people are speculating about, the whole Senate race? Can you just clear the record?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’ve done it about a hundred times, and I’m happy to do it a hundred-and-first time. I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing so long as President Trump wants me to do this. It is an enormous privilege to get the chance to serve as the United States Secretary of State, America’s 70th Secretary of State. I enjoy every minute of opportunity to lead these talented Foreign Service officers. And I’m focused on that, and I love it.
QUESTION: And anything else you want to tell the folks right here back home?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Just go Shockers. I hope they have a great basketball season. I hope the school year goes great for all those young people, and I hope that all the work that’s going on at Wichita State to train and develop and make sure that this next generation of young people are prepared for the 21st century workforce, and that they have the opportunity to take care of their families and keep America in the most powerful economic nation in the world.
QUESTION: Thank you.