QUESTION: Welcome home.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s good to be home.
QUESTION: Anything you want to do while you’re here in Kansas? Any, like, barbecue joints you got to hit up?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s just not going to happen. In and out, unfortunately.
SECRETARY POMPEO: But we’re coming back for a wedding in October. And we’ll be down in Wichita to see friends and that’ll be good.
QUESTION: Good. Okay. It has to be honor to be here for the Landon Series – I mean, among world leaders, former presidents. I mean, talk about that honor of speaking at this lecture series.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Melissa, thanks for having me. It’s an incredible privilege. It’s cool to be back in Kansas to do this as well. I don’t know that I’ve been to – goodness, I’ve been to probably four or five Landon Lectures in my life to watch amazing leaders speak to the people of Kansas and the people here at Kansas State University. And then I got this invitation to do this a number of months back and it was such a thrill. And we were able to set a date that worked and it’s great. I’m looking forward to it. It will be fun too.
But I have an important message that I want to share with the people of Kansas, as well, about our freedoms and our unalienable rights, things that I think sometimes it’s easy to take for granted. As I travel the world, I see how unique and special this place is here in America, and I want to talk about that today.
QUESTION: Can you expand on that a little bit, exactly what you’ll be speaking about and what you want people to take away from your lecture today?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, to watch 24/7 news, or to grab your phone and scroll down Twitter and lose track of the fundamental essence of American greatness and how exceptional the United States of America is. And so I want to talk about these founding principles and how American diplomacy, our foreign policy has to be focused on ensuring we protect these unalienable rights and the central things like liberty.
We live in Kansas. It’s a great place. It’s easy living. It’s great people, family. We miss our church here in Kansas. All the things Kansans know and love sometimes we take for granted. We can practice our religion here in Kansas. We have these fundamental unalienable rights and I want to talk about that with Kansans today, remind them that we shouldn’t take them for granted, that it’s hard work to protect them, and that each of us has a responsibility to do that.
QUESTION: Jumping off from there, what do you see as the country’s biggest threat right now that you face?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, goodness, the – whenever I get asked to rank order – my days are filled with challenges and opportunity too. I watch an American economy that’s growing and expanding. I watch amazing American innovation from places like Wichita State and University of Kansas, the place I am here today, Wildcat country. We have to make sure to preserve that.
So we have threats. We talk a lot about China, the risk that if we don’t get China to behave properly, they’ll continue to steal our intellectual property to prevent us from trading there. It’s a big, growing economy. We want to be part of that too. We still have threats from terrorism, now almost two decades on after 9/11. And I’m mindful we lost a soldier just yesterday in Afghanistan. I’m mindful of the duty and the burden that comes with getting American diplomacy right, to keep American people safe as well.
QUESTION: Do you think our – one of our biggest threats could be domestically? I mean, we talk about the most recent mass shootings that we had that’s on a lot of Americans’ minds right now.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure. It’s not exactly in my portfolio today, but it is the case that we do our best to make sure we identify dangerous people who are coming into the country, to try to take down radicalism across the world so there’s less risk here in the United States. But we have to support American law enforcement and all the folks who do great work on the streets of America’s big cities and rural places and in Kansas as well. They do a phenomenal job of keeping it safe.
QUESTION: Let’s bring it back to Kansas here. And your friend Senator Moran, he seems to get you in trouble. Unfortunately because of him, we have to put you on the spot all the time. I know you’ve been grilled about this four other times before you got here, but yesterday he’s saying that you’d be a solid candidate for Senator Roberts’ seat. You have to respond to that. I know you’re rolling your eyes. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I’m not rolling my eyes. Look, that’s a very kind statement from Senator Moran. And I’m always – I’m always flattered when people talk about the fact that I’d be someone who they would value to come back and help Kansas be successful. But my mission is very clear. I love what I’m doing. It’s a privilege to serve the American people and President Trump to try and deliver this American foreign policy. I’m focused on that every day, and I intend to keep doing that just as long as I have the opportunity to do it.
QUESTION: You seem like a man who’s not going to give in to pressure, but certainly with the statements – those public statements coming from people like Senator Moran who – would it ever give you pause to give some kind of consideration to take off the it’s-off-the-table stance?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I love what I’m doing. It’s an incredible privilege. I want to keep at this. I’m mindful that there’s a year and a half or so left to the President’s first term, and I’m focused on making sure we get everything done that we possibly can in this year and a half. That’s how I spend my time each day. I hear the noise a little bit, but I think there’s a lot of people thinking about my future more than I am. I’m thinking about tomorrow and the next day, not so much what might happen a couple years down the road.
QUESTION: We’ll shift it a little bit. You know Senator Roberts personally and you know Kansas. What kind of person do you think would be good in that role?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Goodness, Senator Roberts has been a Kansas treasure for decades now. I came to admire him and to love him and, frankly, I learned a lot from him when I was a brand new member of Congress back in 2011. He’ll be missed.
Someone in his image. Someone who tells the Kansas people the truth, who works his or her tail off, who has a good sense of humor, and who understands Kansans and understands our values and the way we think about the world, and then takes them to Washington and picks away at delivering on that. I think if we find someone who’s of that ilk, Kansans will be well served.
QUESTION: Advice for Kansas as they enter that election season?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I don’t have anything to say. But having said that, I’m very confident Kansans will sort through it. They’ll sort through the candidates that put themselves forward. I’m sure they’ll have a good group of folks from which to choose, and I am very confident that they’ll find someone that will – they won’t replace Pat, but they’ll begin to develop their own role as a Kansas senator and do good work on behalf of Kansans.
QUESTION: I see you’re sporting the purple tie. So that’s why I’m going to ask you this next question. Do you have thoughts on KU and K-State football? They have new coaches. They both won their first games. Any —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I saw part of the KU game. I didn’t catch the K-State game. K-State plays Bowling Green, I guess, it’s tomorrow now. Yes, I have real thoughts. I hope they both have great seasons.
QUESTION: I hope so too. Right? New coaches, they have a lot to prove. You talked about this just briefly, but that you have so much more of your job to do. You’ve been in it now for more than a year. Reflection on your job and where you want to go from here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be at the State Department. One of the things I’ll do today here at K-State is talk to these young people about thinking about public service and maybe enter in the Foreign Service, becoming an American diplomat. I had to answer that question this way, because the work that our team does is noble. We have a chance to represent this exceptional nation all across the world. We’ve got people stationed in 180-plus countries all around the world. I get a chance to meet many of them when I travel.
I hope Kansans – some of these young people would say, “That’s a place I want to go. I can do a good term for America. I can have an interesting career, exciting life.” And I’ve raised my family as part of that. It’s a great place. And I hope that the next days and weeks and months we can continue to deliver on American foreign policy, an American foreign policy focused on keeping Americans safe. I think sometimes we’ve lost sight of that. When we do, America will continue to be a force for good all around the world.
QUESTION: Do you feel different in Kansas? Does it give you a different energy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. It absolutely does. When I landed last night – look, it’s familiar. It feels right. I had a chance to walk around here just a little bit last night. People are friendly. Yeah.
QUESTION: Did you get recognized?
SECRETARY POMPEO: People tend to recognize me more now than they have at any point in my life. Yeah, it feels very different. It feels different, because it’s a place that I think really represents America well in the terms of the way we just think about the world and we think about how you ought to treat other human beings. I’m proud to be from Kansas, and I talk about that all the time when I travel. Whether it’s in Bangkok or Cairo, I talk about Kansas and this very special place from which I hail.
QUESTION: Anything else you wanted to add while we have you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No. Melissa, I think that’s it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks for trying to give me the hook. Thank you so much.
QUESTION: I really appreciate it.