QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Kansas for the Landon Lecture. Why come deliver a message to Kansans at this time?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you today. Thanks for having me on. And it’s awesome to be back home and a privilege to come speak at this lecture series – a famous globally, around the world, famous lecture series. The Landon Lecture Series is pretty special. I got the invitation a few months back and I was thrilled to get the chance to come talk to Americans, to talk to people in Kansas in the heartland about the important work we’re doing diplomatically around the world, President Trump’s foreign policy.
And today, I’ll spend a lot of time talking about our unalienable rights. They’re under assault in America; they’re under assault around the world. And I want to share with Kansans our diplomatic vision for how to improve on that.
QUESTION: Kansas farmers are worried about tariffs amid the ongoing trade war with China. Is this a long-term strategy? What reassurances can you offer? And what is the greater good to be achieved?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I remember when I was a congressman from south central Kansas, I’d hear from farmers all the time about how China wouldn’t let them sell their wheat or their corn or their dairy products, whatever it may have been. And President Trump’s taking that on. He’s opening these markets for Kansas farmers, for Iowa farmers, for folks from Indiana, and all across America. He is determined not to let the Chinese continue to engage in trade behaviors that are detrimental to Americans.
I remember, too, I worked in the Air Capital of the World, in Wichita, Kansas, ran a machine shop. I remember China stealing intellectual property, costing thousands of jobs right here in Kansas. For too long America let that happen. President Trump’s not going to do that. All we’re asking for is fair, reciprocal trade, and I’m very confident President Trump will get that.
QUESTION: Speaking of your time in Wichita, how did your time as a congressman in Kansas prepare you for your role as the top diplomat in the nation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness. I learned an awful lot during that time. I got to meet people mostly in south central Kansas, but all across our great state, and understand the things that mattered to them. We have a lot of young men and women who joined America’s military. As a senior diplomat, I feel an enormous responsibility to keep those young men and women out of harm’s way by getting good outcomes for America diplomatically without the use of force. So I learned an awful lot that’s very relevant to the job that I do today.
QUESTION: Are you close to signing a deal with the Taliban, and what would have to happen for you to do so?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President will ultimately make that decision, but we’ve made a lot of progress in convincing the Taliban to make some commitments that, frankly, we’ve been trying to get out of them for almost two decades now.
Just yesterday, we had a soldier killed in Kabul. And our mission set is very clear. It’s to reduce the level of violence, to reduce the risk to young American men and women in Afghanistan, but at the same time to deliver an outcome that ensures that counterterrorism efforts there prevent or at least reduce the risk that there’s ever an attack from Afghanistan on our homeland again.
I’m still unhappy about 9/11, 20 years on. Almost 20 years on, I still stare at that day and I’m reminded that we’ve got to get counterterrorism right. President Trump knows that too, but we’ve got to make sure we apply American resources appropriately, because the threat from terror is not just in Afghanistan today. It’s in many other places, and we’ve got to get it right.
QUESTION: For your political future, do you see the possibility of a run for Kansas senate or Kansas governor down the line?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness. I’m so focused on what I’m doing. We just ripped through half a dozen topics. There’s another 20 we could’ve gone through. I spend every waking moment working to try and achieve good diplomatic outcomes for the people of Kansas. That’s my mission set; it’s what I’m focused on. As for what happens tomorrow, a week from now, or two years from now, goodness only knows.
QUESTION: As you deal with issues from across the globe, what is one message you would like to give to Kansans at this time, in this particular political climate?
SECRETARY POMPEO: America remains an exceptional nation, one that, wherever we go around the world, we are a force for good. I think Kansans need to know that, like every American needs to know and appreciate that.
Sometimes we get a little cynical here in America or think somehow that America has lost its capacity to do good things for its own people and, indeed, around the world. And I – as I travel around the world, I see it’s just the opposite. Every nation is looking to America to help them be better. President Trump’s been very focused on America – America First – making sure that our national security policy delivered on that. I think we have and I think we’ll continue to do that as well.
QUESTION: Speaking to a college university crowd today, what would be your message to that specific age group – 20s and 30s, young professionals – as to their place in the nation right now and into the world?
SECRETARY POMPEO: These are great people – adults. I’m not sure my message is particularly different for these young people than for some older folks like myself, other than this: A number of them will have to make life choices here in the next months or years. A life of public service, or at least spending some part of your life in public service, whether that’s joining America’s armed forces or coming to be a great diplomat at the United States Department of State, are noble things and undertakings worth exploring. And I hope to encourage a handful of folks to take a good look and see if a life as an American diplomat is something where they – a place where they could serve their country.
QUESTION: What is the status of President Trump’s border wall on our southern border?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re building it. President Trump made a real commitment to two basic propositions. One was that we would secure our southern border to make sure that we knew who was coming in and out, what drugs were transiting, what criminal activity was coming across that border. His second commitment was to do that just as quickly as he possibly could. He hasn’t gotten much help from Congress. We hope that he will in the future, but he is still determined to make sure that we get an immigration policy that fits America.
We want to make sure – I remember when I was a member of Congress, people from all across the world would want to come here. And I was proud of that; I was happy about that. But they waited in line for six or eight or 10 years to come in. It’s not right that we have people coming here illegally. President Trump is trying to stop that to make sure that we have the capacity to protect American sovereignty, and we’re going to accomplish that.
QUESTION: Circling back to the trade war with China and its impact on Kansas farmers, what is the outcome the U.S. is trying to achieve, and how will we know once we get there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the outcome is pretty straightforward. President Trump said it dozens, if not hundreds, of times. He wants China to engage in trade on the rules that the rest of the world does. They’re now a developed country. They can’t steal American intellectual property. Kansans work really hard. Our engineering schools here at Kansas State, around all across the state work hard to develop intellectual property. We want to serve Chinese customers. It’s a market of over a billion people. We need the opportunity to do that. Today, China won’t permit it, and that’s the outcome that President Trump is determined to get for decades.
And this isn’t political. Republican presidents, Democrat presidents just weren’t prepared to take this on and challenge this set of trade arrangements that’s fundamentally unfair to Kansans and fundamentally unfair to Americans. His aim is to fix that, and we’ll know when we’ve achieved that when we get China to have a set of simple, basic, fair, reciprocal trading rules with the United States and, frankly, we hope the entire world.
QUESTION: How would you describe your —
STAFF: I’m sorry, there is – go ahead.
QUESTION: Last question? Okay. How would you describe your relationship with President Trump?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve been working with President Trump now for coming on, goodness, three years. My relationship is just like it is with every member of the team. I work hard; I tell him the truth. When we disagree, I share it with him. And then my mission set is to go out and execute on behalf of the American people the guidance that President Trump has delivered to us.
He’s someone who I’ve gotten to know well and who has given me the opportunity to serve as America’s most-senior diplomat, and I work every day tirelessly to try and deliver for him and for the American people and for great people like I’ll get a chance to be with here today in Kansas.
QUESTION: Sir, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.