No place like home

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins Landon Lecture Series at Manhattan


Mike Pompeo speaks to a group at Kansas State University on Saturday afternoon. Pompeo came to Kansas State to discuss the current political environment surrounding the upcoming election season.

Meredith Comas, Print Editor-in-Chief

The Manhattan community lined the halls of MCain Auditorium at Kansas State University on the morning of Sept. 6 to get a glimpse of the newest addition to the K-State Landon Lecture Series: U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

The highly anticipated speech — which occurred days before Pompeo announced the end of peace talks with the Taliban — was the first lecture of the year and the 190th of the series. 

“[Pompeo] didn’t have to come here,” attendee Aaron Hoff, senior, said. “He could have gone to any place, like his alma mater at the United States Military Academy at West Point or Harvard. But he chose to go to Kansas State, which is local.”

Pompeo — a former member of the House of Representatives for Kansas’ 4th Congressional district and a Kansas representative to the Republican National Committee — opened his speech by remarking on his love for the Sunflower State.

“It feels great to be back in Kansas. There’s no place like home,” Pompeo said. “I know the other Manhattan thinks it’s the center of America, but I think this Manhattan has a far more legitimate claim to that title. Kansas really is the true heartland of America.”

While the audience looked onward from the crowded seating of McCain, Pompeo took the opportunity to speak to the ideal of “Americanism” and the meaning of the rights secured by the founding fathers, introducing these topics as the purpose of his speech. 

“It’s something to be proud of,” he said. “Our glorious history shouldn’t be revised …it should be revered…. That’s why I’m here today: to talk with you about our proud American tradition of unalienable rights, and why we must recover a proper understanding of it.”

Using a multitude of historical allusions relating to Kansas, Pompeo centered his speech on America’s progression of individual rights, speaking out as Secretary of State on behalf of the people of Iran, Venezuela, China “and people of all other nationalities.”

They deserve their God-given freedoms just as much as we do,” he said. 

He then took the speech closer to home, remarking on the “uphill battle” presented by modern media and politicians. 

“Today, our children aren’t taught about the central role of unalienable rights in our founding…Our media tries to rewrite our history as an unremitting tale of racism and misogyny, not as a bold but imperfect experiment in freedom,” he said. “Our politicians have framed pet causes as fights for ‘rights’ to bypass the normal political process. We’ve blurred the distinction between fundamental, universal rights and mere political or personal preferences.”

He continued speaking to the audience on his definition of “unalienable rights,” using an analogy to explain his use of the term. 

“International institutions have allowed almost anything to become a right,” he said. “This is an imperfect analogy…but the 13th ice cream cone isn’t better than the 12th. With respect to unalienable rights, more, per se, is not always better… There is far too little agreement anymore on what an unalienable right truly is. Just because a treaty or law says something is a right doesn’t make it an unalienable right. “

These distinctions lead to the introduction of his initiative: the Commission on Unalienable Rights at the State Department, a nonpartisan group made up of human rights experts and politicians “of varied backgrounds and beliefs.”

“They will begin with an understanding of rights as our Founders understood them: a set of inviolable freedoms, rooted in our nature, given by God, for all people, at all times,” Pompeo said. “Its mission is to help uphold America’s noble tradition of unalienable rights in a world often bent on violating them.”

Pompeo concluded his speech 48-minute speech by addressing the audience as to their responsibility “to make sure their rights are honored” and remind them of the American inheritance.

“We Americans are the heirs of immortal principles,” he said. “We inherit a tradition of unalienable rights that made our nation the greatest in history…We have a responsibility to protect that tradition, to promote it, and to get it right, at home and abroad. That’s what I’m doing as your Secretary of State. God bless you. God bless Kansas. And God bless the United States of America.”