SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. How are you all doing?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good, good. It’s great to be back here in Kansas, and to quote the famous phrase, there is literally no place like home. (Laughter.)
Before I get started, I noticed that the student body president and vice president are both engineers. You should know that was my undergraduate degree, so you may – who knows, right? (Laughter.)
Before I get started, too, President Myers went through many of the distinguished guests. I want to let you know how much I appreciate the opportunity to be here. To have the high privilege to give a speech as part of the Landon Lecture Series is something that I will always cherish. I appreciate this opportunity. Thank you, President Myers, and your team, for making this happen today.
And I also want to make sure and recognize the Landon Lecture Series supporters, perhaps most importantly former Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker. You have demonstrated your commitment to public service in ways that are important and noble and continuing, and thank you for that. (Applause.)
I know too we have many other distinguished guests. President Myers mentioned a whole group of folks. I think Susan Estes is here – her husband Ron couldn’t be here – serving the same constituents I did back in south central Kansas. Thank you for being here today. Thanks to all the state elected officials. I understand that the mayor pro tempore, Usha Reddi, is here, and that Mike Dodson, the mayor of the city of Manhattan, is here as well, as well as Wynn Butler, city of Manhattan commissioner. I can tell you, I know how tough it is to lead in those local levels. Bless you all for taking on that important service to America. I have tough days; I know you do, too. (Applause.)
Now, I know – because I spend a little bit of time at the United Nations – I know that that other Manhattan thinks it’s the center of America – (laughter) – but I am confident that this place has a much better claim to that than that other city on the East Coast. This is really the true heartland. It’s great to be back here, and this university, K-State itself, has such a noble history. As the first land-grant university, you can tie your roots directly back to the statute that Abraham Lincoln put forward, he signed into law back in 1862, this law that created this university even as the Civil War was raging.
I’ll talk about this a little bit more today, but that effort says something about America, doesn’t it? That even as our nation’s leaders were trying to figure out how to keep this great nation together, they were creating opportunities for our citizens to study and to learn. And this is the legacy that you here at K-State carry on today.
It’s just one of the things that makes America so great, so special, so unique in human history. I was a few weeks back in Indianapolis speaking to the American Legion in Indianapolis. And I said America – and Americanism – is something that we’ve got to be proud of. I think sometimes some of us take things for granted.
Our glorious history shouldn’t be revised; it should be revered. And the truest expression of that reverence is to safeguard and live by the principles by which this country was founded, and those people who forged this unique place.
It’s why I’m here today. I want to talk about how proud of the American tradition I am every time I travel around the world, and why we must recover a proper understanding of that history and America’s special place in the world.
That tradition, that American tradition, begins with a set of unalienable rights. Our nation’s founding created them. They’re the beating heart of who we are as an American body today, and as Americans. The Declaration of Independence laid it out pretty clearly. It said – and you will all know this, I know all of you have studied it multiple times, especially you young people sitting way in the back, It says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and, “That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and, “That to secure these rights, Governments [were] instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
In other words, these are rights that were endowed upon us by our creator. They’re part of our nation. Our nation is – and they’re part of who we are as Americans, as human beings. They are independent of anything our government does, and the purpose of government indeed is to protect those unalienable rights. And I must say, as I travel the world, there can be no nobler cause.
Just as profoundly, that declaration says that all men – and it meant all human beings – are created equal. These rights weren’t unique to us as Americans. We were simply the first nation with the vision to organize around them, with a national mission that was to honor those very rights, these fundamental rights.
And of course, we all know, fight we have. We fought the Revolutionary War against our good friends, now the United Kingdom, who are having a great time. (Laughter.) We fought a Civil War to hold our nation together. Indeed, in the decade before K-State’s founding in the 1850s, “Bleeding Kansas” had just been established as a territory.
Fueled by the promise of popular sovereignty, pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers alike were flooding in, often violently clashing.
This brewing fight over slavery was, in essence, a fight over unalienable rights. And the people of Kansas knew this deeply.
In 1858, George Washington Brown, an abolitionist newspaper editor from Lawrence, said “…no party…of men can be guilty of greater inconsistency or absurdity than those who deny the axiomatic truths asserted in the equality and inalienable rights of all men.”
John Speer, a bit later, the abolitionist editor of the Kansas Pioneer, said that, “The American Government was originally based upon the principle of the universality of freedom, and the Declaration of Independence was an emphatic [and] succinct declaration that all men [are indeed] created equal, and entitled to certain unalienable rights,” as a result of their human dignity.
And then in commenting on the Declaration’s affirmation of unalienable rights, Lincoln said that the Founders, “meant to set up [a standard,] a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all.”
That fight has continued. We are an imperfect nation, to be sure. But we’re lucky we have unalienable rights as our foundation, as our north star.
So I now serve as America’s 70th Secretary of State. I know our tradition and respect for unalienable rights hasn’t just shaped us as a nation; it’s shaped how we think about America’s place in the world as well, and it sets our foreign policy.
Unalienable rights are at the core of who we are as Americans. We abhor violations of these rights, whenever and wherever they are encountered.
That’s why I always speak out on behalf of the people of Iran, of Venezuela, of China, and people of all other nationalities who do not have the benefit that we have. They deserve their God-given freedoms just as much as we do.
American diplomats have always had this as one of their core causes. The stories are long but I’ll tell just a couple. After World War II, the world looked to America to take the tradition of unalienable rights – which came to be called human rights – beyond our shores.
In 1948, thanks to our leadership, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a document inspired by our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
And we need to remember this was the first time ever, it was the first time ever, that America led nations to set a standard for how governments should treat their people. We even fought to protect unalienable rights of the people inhabiting nations we had just defeated. We’ve done this repeatedly. This wasn’t American imperialism, but rather it was American mercy and grace. We knew it was right for them as well, and right for us.
Since then, we’ve achieved great victories: the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid, the founding of democracies that also cherish and protect people’s unalienable rights in many parts of the world.
I lead an organization of some 70,000 people. Our mission is to promote and foster these unalienable rights so that they will abound, that they’ll be everywhere. We have an entire bureau devoted to no task other than that one.
Every year – I’d ask you to go take a look at this. Every year, we prepare a compendium. Our diplomats produce an exhaustive report of every human rights violation around the world. It becomes the encyclopedia for all other governments to see, and you should know we spare no one. We call them like we see them. No other country does that.
And just like we did decades after World War II and then in the Cold War, American diplomats still help set the standard for unalienable rights all around the world. We demonstrate our leadership. This is an effort where I am enormously proud of the team I am so privileged to lead.
But today I wanted to share with you that we sometimes take things for granted here in America. Don’t become complacent. We can’t. We owe it to all Americans to uphold this noble tradition of American leadership to secure rights here at home and abroad.
There are many places where this is an uphill battle.
Today, frankly, our children aren’t taught about the central role of unalienable rights in our schools in the way that they must be.
I’ve seen the media try and rewrite our history as an unrelenting tale of racism and misogyny, not as a bold but imperfect nation, an experiment in freedom. We need to do that.
Our politicians too, from time to time, have framed pet causes as “rights” to bypass the normal process by which political ends are achieved. And we’ve blurred the distinction between fundamental, universal rights and mere political preferences or priorities.
International institutions have moved away from these core tenets as well. One reason – excuse me. One research group found that between the United Nations and the Council of Europe, there are a combined 64 human rights-related agreements and 1,377 provisions.
This is an imperfect analogy, but the 13th ice cream cone isn’t as good the first one was. (Laughter.) And with respect to unalienable rights, we need to know that more, per se, is not always better. We have to protect those things that are at the core, at the center, that are foundational. Because when rights proliferate, we risk losing focus on those core unalienable rights, the ones that we would give everything for. And many of our brothers and sisters have done just that.
And frankly, there is far too little agreement anymore on what an unalienable right truly is. Just because a treaty or a law or some writing says it’s a right, it doesn’t make it an unalienable right. Remember where these rights came from.
This confusion – this confusion has opened the door for countless countries that don’t share our respect for human rights to use corrupt understandings of this notion to achieve their evil ends.
Let me give you just one example. Over the past two years in Xinjiang, China – it’s a province in the western part of China – China has tried to brainwash coming on one million Uighur Muslims in internment camps. It’s tried to get them to renounce their culture and their faith.
The Chinese Communist Party claims that the camps are meant to educate and to save people that have been influenced by religious extremism, and thus they make the claim that they’re trying to protect those individuals’ human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, last year the UN Human Rights Council, at Beijing’s urging, adopted a resolution that called for nations “to work together to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights.”
It emphasized “genuine dialogue and cooperation…based on…mutual respect.”
This was, sadly, coded language for repressive regimes to establish a code of silence about their massive human rights violations, those that rival the worst human rights violations from our past century.
Only one country – only one country – on the Human Rights Council voted against China’s resolution. Proudly, that was the United States of America.
Clearly, we must reclaim this tradition. We must reclaim the tradition of unalienable rights from deliberate misunderstanding and, indeed, from cynical abuse.
It’s a task that’s complex and difficult and time-consuming. And I do not claim to have all the answers. But we got to get it right.
This past May, I empaneled a group that I have entitled the Commission on Unalienable Rights at the State Department. Its aim is to achieve a couple of ends.
The commission includes human rights experts, philosophers, activists, Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Independents, people of all varied background and walks of life and from varied religious beliefs. The commission’s work – the commission’s work will be deeply grounded – deeply grounded in our founding principles. It must always be so.
We know this. We know that if we don’t get the understanding of rights, as our founders understood them, correct – these set of inviolable freedoms, rooted in our nature, given by God, for all people, at all times – we will wander away from them. And America, American security, and America’s place in the world will be diminished.
So the commission’s mission is to help uphold America’s noble tradition of unalienable rights in this world that often violates them.
This is how we encourage, too, growth in societies, societies that honor their people and their promise to them.
This is how we foster liberty that leads to sustainable prosperities and opportunities for Americans, individuals, businesses, so that we can level the playing field around the world.
This, too, is how we build ties. It’s how we build ties with countries that cooperate with us on our important national security objectives.
These kind of efforts, too – they’re the efforts that build on what made America great. They build on Americanism.
I hope you will stay tuned as this commission does its important work.
As I conclude today, it would be a betrayal of the American founding and our character to declare a government panel our nation’s authoritative voice on human rights.
Remember, too, the Universal Declaration was spearheaded by an American woman, Eleanor Roosevelt. She once said, quote, “Where, after all, do…human rights begin? They begin in small places, [places] close to home.
All Americans have a responsibility to make sure that their rights are honored in our places of worship, in our workplaces, and yes, on our college campuses, too.
If we do that, we’ll be doing what we’ve done since our founding.
Let me take you back to Bleeding Kansas. July 4th, 1855, the anti-slavery newspaper the New-York Tribune noticed the conflict happening here.
It called for an end to the slavery – the systematic denigration of unalienable rights – that was spurring violence:
It wrote: “We hope and pray that every citizen who hears the Declaration of Independence read this day … will . . . resolve that the Fourth of July of 1856 shall find the policy of the Nation restored to the immortal principles with which it set out on the Fourth of July [back] in 1776.”
Today, we take a lot for granted here in America. But we are the heirs to an immortal principle.
We inherited a tradition of unalienable rights that has made our nation the greatest in recorded history and has blessed many other nations and many other peoples, too.
We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to protect that, a duty, and to promote it and to get it right here at home and to get it right abroad as well.
That’s what I’m trying to do as President Trump’s Secretary of State. I hope you all will join me in this important and noble cause.
Thank you. May God bless you. May God bless Kansas. And I look forward to taking questions on almost any topic today. (Laughter.)
GEN MYERS: Well, thank you, Secretary Pompeo, for your leadership in this very important area and for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments today.
We have a few minutes for Q&A, so there are microphones on each side of the room. And as we call upon you, please tell us your name, whether you’re faculty, staff, or students, and then ask your question. And we’ll alternate sides. And Mr. Secretary, you can do that or I’ll help whatever to —
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s all up to you.
GEN MYERS: Okay. So on the left over here, my left, your right.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for taking so much of your valuable time to share your insights today. My name is Brett DePaola. I’m in the Department of Physics here at Kansas State University. As you know, there have been an exodus of scientists across many of the federal agencies. This exodus has been driven largely because the results of their work has been suppressed. Indeed, recently a well-regarded physicist/chemist Dr. Rod Schoonover left the U.S. Department of State due to the suppression of even a security-cleared version of his assessment on the impact of climate change on national security. I add parenthetically that, in my opinion, the Department of State can ill afford the loss of any good scientists.
My question is: Do you support the suppression of scientific reports from within the U.S. Department of State? If not, how did this happen? And if so, why? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it won’t shock you that I disagree with most of what you just said. (Laughter.) Of course, no one supports the absence of science. I would argue that this State Department – indeed, this administration – has relied on science far more than the previous administration, and I would argue more than any administration in history.
I can tell you the data – I can’t tell you the data. That scientist came from some other agency. I don’t know the numbers there, but I can tell you the data at the State Department. We don’t have higher turnover than we had in the previous administration, in fact, just the opposite. By the end of this year, there will be more Foreign Service officers working for me than at any time in American history, and we turn to scientists and facts-based approaches to every single difficult challenge we face every day.
The stack of paper I read comes from career professionals, comes from political appointees, come from people who have been steeped in American history, and they deliver to me their best analysis. Sometimes I agree with it; sometimes I don’t agree with it. I then work with my colleagues, the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – all of them are working on these important national security projects – and we do our best to sift and sort to deliver the President of the United States the best fact-based analysis that we can.
Indeed, I’d say this too. I – my first job in this administration was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Our singular mission there wasn’t to do policy; indeed, just the antithesis of that. It was to do facts and data, to provide answers, to get assets to the right part of the world, to get resources in the right place so that the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America had the singular best data set upon which to make his decisions.
I was proud of the work I did there. We didn’t always get it right, but we worked diligently to make sure that we were true keepers of the facts and the analysis so that it came out straight. I think we’ve done that. I’m very proud of that work.
GEN MYERS: Mr. Secretary, we have a question here on the – on our side.
QUESTION: Good morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning.
QUESTION: My name is Paul Cathar (ph). I’m a graduate student and alum of K-State. I also had the pleasure of serving Ronald Reagan in a very minor role in the Reagan administration a hundred years ago. (Laughter.)
Your comments about unalienable rights struck home. And at the core of those rights is the ability of citizens to express their displeasure with their government. And as you were coming in this morning, you may have observed outside this building, under the little bench – covered bench there as a sole middle-aged woman holding a sign. And while I recognize the threat that high officials face in serving their country – threat to your person is real wherever you travel – this was a lone woman holding a sign expressing displeasure with her government. And your security detail – really what they did was they harassed her, and they were surrounding her and trying to figure out her intentions this morning. And they were concerned that she was going to even stand up and hold her sign. They were insistent that she sit there and that she not speak.
And I’m curious about your perspective on whether or not that was appropriate. And frankly, from my perspective – and I may not agree with her position –
SECRETARY POMPEO: Of course.
QUESTION: — if she wanted to stand up holding her sign saying I hate the policies of this government or of the Department of State, she should have had the right to do so. And she could have shouted and screamed at the top of her lungs. But when citizens cannot speak and express their concerns with the actions of their government, then all of those rights are in danger.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let’s see, I’m trying to make sure I understand your question. Your first question was: What do I make of that? I didn’t see the particular situation, so I’ll reserve comment. But I’ll say this: I have not been sheltered from protest. I’m pretty sure I know exactly what people think about our policies. (Laughter.) And – good and bad, both. I’ve been surrounded – the last time I spoke at a university, there was a young protestor sitting right about where this young lady was sitting, screamed and hollered things that I wouldn’t have wanted my young child to hear. It’s all good. It’s America. It’s what I was talking about, that first freedom.
And I didn’t see that. I saw protestors out there. They were actually behaving fine. I actually think I know where they were from. I’ve seen them when I – my time in southcentral Kansas. (Laughter.) These are people who I find abhorrent. I find their views abhorrent. And yet, they’re welcome. They’re welcome to speak loudly. And I hope we do that every place we go. You should know that I not only encourage our government to do that, but I encourage governments all across the world to do the same thing.
And we’re very blessed. We’re very blessed that you can stand up here and speak to the Secretary of State and speak your mind. I’m not sure that gentleman agreed with much of what I said. I’m confident some others don’t, but you get to say whatever you want to me.
By the way, my team told me if I took questions from the audience, I was a fool today. (Laughter.) They may have been right about the fool part. I’ll leave that to you all. But this is – from my – secretaries of state don’t often do this, but from my perspective, I want to hear it. If you don’t like what I’m doing, I want to know. I want to make sure we get it. I want – we don’t get everything right every day in anything any of us do as individuals. I certainly don’t.
And so, to hear those voices, the multiplicity of voices, is at the bedrock of the unalienable rights that we have as Americans. I hope we’re doing it right. If my team got it wrong, I regret that. I want to make sure everybody gets a chance to do this, and we’ll do it in a way that I’m adequately protected. I saw – I walked past – I know that everybody doesn’t agree – I saw the metal detectors out there. I am confident that not everybody in here agrees with me today. (Laughter.)
GEN MYERS: Mr. Secretary, we have, on your left, a question.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, appreciate your comments, especially about human rights and inalienable rights. I’m Jonathan Hupp. I work with Called to Greatness, which is a campus ministry here. And I thought I might have the first controversial question, but I guess not.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, you’re third. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. Three for three, here. (Laughter.) I really appreciated the comment, the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt about human rights starting in small places. And along with many Americans, I would hold that the group of people both in the U.S. and around the world whose rights are most violated are the unborn, and would like to ask what your perspective is about that issue and how we should approach that.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So this administration’s been unambiguous on this issue. We believe that every human being should be protected from conception through end of life, natural end of life. We’ve worked on that. My role is to do this around the world.
It most importantly falls on how we spend money. The State Department spends about $70 billion a year – thank you, for the resources (laughter) – some of which was going to organizations that were promoting abortion. We’ve done our level best to prevent that from happening, to make sure that taxpayer dollars didn’t go to that. It’s called the Mexico City Policy. I’ve personally worked to expand pieces of that to make sure that we’ve got it right.
We want to make sure – we still want to support women’s health issues all around the world, all of things that are important – values, things that we all hold dear. But we’ve been diligent in trying to protect the unborn in every dimension of American foreign policy, and we’ll continue to be.
GEN MYERS: Mr. Secretary, on your right.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hello.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for coming today. We are all excited to see you. My name is Olivia Rogers. I’m a senior in political science here at K-State, and my question for you is: You’re speaking to a room full of young people. What’s your best advice going forward for how we can live out the American values that you spoke of?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I always say three simple things – three simple things. First, know the history, right? If you’re ungrounded, you’re just out wandering around. You have to understand America’s history, America’s place in the world. So there’s histories that long predate our couple hundred years as a nation. Spend time thinking and learning about it, the political philosophies that underlay these different outcomes that have been achieved.
Second – and if my son Nick were here today, he would know exactly what I’m going to say, but that’s his problem, not mine – I’ve never seen anyone be successful in life who didn’t work their tail off. It just – it can happen, I suppose, but the people I see, the senior people at the State Department that I work with today have always just – they’ve done a couple simple things. They tell the truth to anyone they encounter, their colleague, someone who works for them. For me, it’s the President. Tell them the truth. Tell them as best you know it. It’s not that you’re not going to be wrong from time to time, but you’ve got to tell the truth and you’ve got to work hard. If you do those two things, not every day, but over a lifetime, there’ll be real success.
And then the last piece is make sure you define it for yourself. Everyone here would choose a different path and define success in a different way. I value my Christian faith. I love the job that I have, trying to deliver security for the American people every day. I’ve got officers – every morning I wake up and the first thing I get is the security report from around the world. We’ve got officers serving in dangerous places, in Baghdad. Today we’ve got officers in Hong Kong, who are under threat from the Chinese Government. We’ve got people all around the world, and we have to make hard decisions about who to put there and how to get them there. But they’ve defined success for themselves as taking on a life of public service, and I hope some of you will. It’s career.state.gov. (Laughter.) We need great Kansans serving in America. I love the East Coast, I was born on the West Coast, but we need folks from the heartland serving America as well. There’s my thoughts for you. Thank you, ma’am.
GEN MYERS: On your left, Mr. Secretary.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. My name is Mohaned al-Hamdi. I’m from the economics department. I am originally from Iraq, so I’m very concerned with what’s happening, the escalation of the tension between Iran and Israel in the Middle East. And report says that the war is going on between the two countries, but it is operated on the land of other countries. Iraq is one of them, Syria and Lebanon. Is the United States of America able and willing to protect its allies in the region, including Iraq, the Gulf states, and to save the world and the world economy from this Iranian aggression?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Back to first principles. When the Trump administration came in, we stared at the larger puzzle in the Middle East and had two primary critiques of the previous administration and policies that we’ve changed dramatically. The first is we’ve undertaken a significant effort trying to unlock the riddle of peace between the – between Israel and the Palestinians. More to follow – a difficult problem, one that ultimately those two peoples will have to resolve for themselves, but we’ve worked hard on that. We’ve been consulting broadly throughout the region for two and a half years now, and I think in the coming weeks we’ll announce our vision and hopefully the world, Gulf states and – will see that as a building block, a basis on which to move forward.
The second one was fundamental, identifying the revolutionary regime in Iran as the central problem inside Middle East causing instability. That has certainly proven true in my year and change as the CIA director, now in my year and change as the Secretary of State. If you look at the conflicts, whether it’s the difficulty that Iraq has in standing up its own sovereign independence, the problem is the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you look at Israel’s security along its northern border, it’s Hizballah, underwritten by Iran. If you stare at Syria today, it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that drove Assad’s regime to successfully cause 6 million persons to be displaced from Syria. Today, Houthis in a country called Yemen are launching missiles into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some of you will travel, you’ll take internships to Riyadh, and you’ll study there, and today you’re at risk of being killed by an Iranian missile flying out of Yemen, all because of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its leadership.
The people of Iran are amazing people; the Persian history is staggeringly beautiful and gorgeous. Our mission set has been twofold: first, to create a coalition – Gulf states, the Israelis, European partners, countries from Asia – to take the tension down, to create de-escalatory defense systems. You see what we’re doing in the Strait of Hormuz today, trying to create a situation where there’s less risk that there’ll be conflict. And then the second mission has been to deny the Iranian regime the wealth and resources to inflict their terror campaigns around the world. They are in fact the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. They have an active assassination campaign taking place in European capitals even as we speak. They’re underwriting Hizballah in Argentina and Brazil. This is a regime that has a revolutionary flavor, and our mission set is to create the conditions where their behavior will change.
I laid out 12 requirements. President Trump has said he’s happy to meet with the Iranian leadership. Happy might overstate it a bit – (laughter) – but willing for sure to meet with them because, in the end, we want to resolve this through diplomacy. We would love nothing more than for Iran to come back into the community of nations, to cease its efforts to proliferate nuclear weapon systems, to cease building out missile systems that threaten not only the Middle East but soon Europe as well, and to convince them that conducting terror campaigns in more than a dozen countries is not in their national security interest. It’s been our mission; it’s still a project where there’s a lot of work to do.
That answer your question, at least in part, sir? Yeah. (Laughter.) I could —
I could go on. Yes, sir.
GEN MYERS: Mr. Secretary, I think we have time for two questions if they can be succinct and —
SECRETARY POMPEO: And I’ll do my best to be succinct as well.
QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. My name’s Cora Farley (ph). I’m a second year veterinary student at the college of veterinary medicine here, and I’m a transplant from Pennsylvania, so I’m originally from the East Coast.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Welcome to Kansas.
QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) My question relates to how you talked so strongly about the unalienable rights that America wants to uphold not only here in the States but also throughout the entire world, and yet the Trump administration very strongly opposes people coming here in search of those rights and being able to pursue happiness in countries where they may not feel safe or may not have those opportunities.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Look, I’m glad you asked this question. That’s fundamentally not true. (Applause.) What we want – I’ll give you – I said I’d be succinct. I’m going to blow that right here. (Laughter.) I remember when I was a member of Congress, we’d get calls almost every day into our office from someone from Africa or Europe or Asia who said they want to come be an American, and we’d send them the paperwork. And yet today we have a southern border where the proper advice might well have been, “No, just come on in.” That’s not right; that’s not fair. That actually doesn’t respect the rule of law and human dignity and the unalienable rights about which I spoke. We have an obligation – we have an absolute obligation – to protect American sovereignty for the American people who are here, and to conduct a migration policy that will be the most generous in the world – it always has been – but that is operated under rule of law that is respectful of that dignity.
I’ve been to El Salvador. I’ve been to Mexico multiple times. I was in Cucuta, Colombia. I watched those migrants flee. These people who are coming across our southern border are putting their own lives at risk, the lives of their children. We need a system that welcomes people to come to our country in a way that is lawful and respectful of their human dignity, and it’s what President Trump is aiming to achieve. And I will tell you, we’re closer today than America was two and a half years ago.
And I’ve worked closely with my counterpart, Marcelo Ebrard. He’s the foreign minister in Mexico. He’s a fantastic guy. He’s also a person of the left, and so politically we’re in different places. But we share a vision for what a secure southern border ought to look like and how we’ll get that set of issues right, so that those people who do want to come here, who are, in fact, coming from places that – to your point – are more than economically challenged, but rather present true threat and risk to life, that America will continue to be a place where they can be welcomed into our great country. We’re working hard at that.
Thank you. Thank you for your question. (Applause.)
GEN MYERS: And the last question here on the left.
SECRETARY POMPEO: All right, last one. A lot of pressure. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Hello, I’m Richard. I’m studying mechanical engineering and am a member of the KSU debate team. How is the U.S. promoting an end to the oppression of Uighurs in China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Insufficiently, because it’s still going on, and so the mission continues. We have used the diplomatic tools that we have, which begin with identification of the problem set. It sounds like you know a fair amount about what’s transpiring there. There’s been some great pieces written, some great pieces in The New York Times and other places where they’ve talked about the deprivation that’s taking place there in western China.
I said before this may well end up being one of the worst stains on the world of this century. It’s of that magnitude. So our tool set is to identify the challenge and then to rally the world, and we’ve done so today with some success but not nearly enough, to call this out and to then work with the Chinese Government to convince them, to convince the Chinese Communist Party, that this isn’t in their best interest either, that it’s not the right way to treat their fellow members of their country, it’s not the right way to treat other human beings.
This is fundamentally not about national security for them. This isn’t about Islamic extremism in western China. This is about freedom and dignity for individuals. And so we have big teams working on this as part of our efforts towards making sure that there’s as much religious freedom around the world as we can possibly muster. We take that for granted here. If you want to practice your faith or you choose not to practice any faith, you can do that here in America. We want to make sure that’s true in as many places around the world as we can. We consider that sort of the first among our unalienable rights. If you can’t – if you can’t exhibit your beliefs, then some of these other things become far less relevant to your well-being.
It’s a difficult challenge. I hope that we can get – I hope we can get – we’re going to have this UN General Assembly in the third week of September, where we’ll do a number of gatherings where our efforts will be to get other countries to sign up to help us call out this activity that’s taking place. We just – we just want it fixed. We want freedom for those folks. This isn’t – we have lots of challenges with China, but this is more – this is about their fundamental unalienable rights for those particular individuals who are mostly Muslim, Chechens, Uighurs. We’re trying our best to do right by them.
Thank you. (Applause.)
GEN MYERS: Secretary Pompeo, thank you again for coming to Kansas State University. We appreciate your leadership in America and your leadership internationally. And just to remind everybody here, the next lecture will be September 27th. It’s the CEO of Fortune Magazine, Alan Murray, and he’s going to talk about truth and facts in the 21st century. Should be really interesting.
So with that, thank you very much for attending, and thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. (Applause.)