Editor’s Note: Michael Pompeo, the Secretary of State for the United States of America, held a conference call style press conference for five student journalists to talk about his and the state department’s support of entrepreneurship during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit today. In attendance were Pompeo, his public relations officer Katie Marten, and reporters from Emporia State University, Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Southeast Missouri State University. A full transcript follows.
Mike Pompeo: Hello everyone. Sorry I am running a couple of minutes late. Thank you for joining me today. You bet. I’m looking forward to this. A couple thoughts: I am thrilled to be back in Kansas. I haven’t been back here in way too long to be around friends and family and great young students like yourselves. I wanted to say three things to get kicked off. First, it sounds like there are folks from “The Sunflower.” Please know that Susan and I are thinking and praying for the Wichita State family and the family of Dr. Bardo, who passed. We know the impact he had on the university and we know the university will continue the legacy that he had there and do great. Second, I came to Kansas for an Entrepreneurship Summit. It’s a global effort. I was just with my partner from the Netherlands, the Dutch Trade Minister, and she was talking about the importance of freedom and liberty in their country and the connection between our two nations and how it is we can help companies all across Kansas who want to sell their products around the world and the state department has an important function there. Lastly, and this is most appropriate talking to you all, the opportunities to come serve America, as a diplomat, working at the Department of State are enormous. Anyone who is attending any one of the fine institutions that you all are writing for ought to think about it, whether they are history majors or engineers or they have a language skill. We hire them all and the chance to travel the world to learn and to represent America as an American diplomat is a wonderful opportunity that I hope students all across Kansas will take a look at the state department’s website and see if that opportunity might not just be for them. With that, I’m happy to take questions.
Matthew Kelly, Editor-in-Chief of “The Sunflower” at Wichita State University: Yes. In the vane of economic growth and prosperity. You’re very familiar with Wichita State, innovation campus and its mission of public/private partnership in higher education really being the driver of local economies. My question is should private industry play a bigger role in higher education and if so, what would the future of that look like?
Pompeo: Oh goodness, you know, I think that varies. I think there are places that it already plays a tremendous role. What is absolutely certain is that real opportunities for students, hands-on challenges for kids who are trying to learn are incredibly important. You’ve seen that there at Wichita State with their bus there on campus and all of the opportunities at the innovation center. I know the same holds true at Benedictine and The University of Kansas, schools all across our great state. We need to make sure that when students leave and get their degree, that they have the skills that they want, the skills that they think they’re getting, the skills that will deliver for what it is that is their mission. Some will choose to enter public service, some will choose to enter the private sector. What’s imperative is that there is access for the most creative amongst us, the entrepreneurs all across America, access to the schools, so that students get the chance to experience that while they’re still in their learning mode.
Kelly: Excellent. Thank you. Just very quickly, when private industry is driven by political actors, like in Wichita where Charles Koch lives ten minutes from Wichita State, is there any conflict at all in your mind of dealing with public tax dollars and higher ed versus political actors or is that just the nature of it?
Pompeo: Well look, I don’t see, I think you started your question by saying that the private sector drives education or something like that.
Pompeo: I haven't seen that. That’s not been my experience at schools, whether they’re private schools or public schools like we have here, so many in Kansas. I’ve watched America with a model that has educational freedom, where professors are free to teach the things they want to do. They invite the private sector in when they have a particular expertise or professional skill that they can lend so that the students have that skill when they leave as well. I don’t see that the challenge that’s described. I’ve watched these private sector companies, do real good things across the educational landscape.
Kelly: Thank you.
Sarah Spoon: Hi, I have a question. Hi, Mr. Secretary. My name is Sarah Spoon. I’m from Emporia State University. Mr. Secretary, you have said that you want more people from the midwest, and specifically Kansas to represent the United States overseas. My question for you is does this include undocumented immigrants, who might speak multiple languages and therefore be useful assets? And what would you say to those students who would like to participate in these programs but cannot, for fear that both they and their families will be deported?
Pompeo: Well look, we, to work in the United States of America you have to be lawfully authorized to work here. Certainly the same holds true for the United States Department of State. This administration is incredibly welcoming of immigrants from all across the world. We want to make sure they come here in a way that is legal, that is lawful, and that has been one of President Trump’s primary focuses. I saw this when I was a member of Congress, how folks from Europe, folks from Asia, who wanted to come here would wait in line for two and five and ten years to fill out the paperwork to become citizens or to become local permanent residents and others would decide to come here a different way, not through the system. That’s not fair. That’s not right and President Trump is determined to make sure that we have a robust immigration system where we can bring the most creative minds from all across the world who want to come to America, to participate in The American Dream and to work, we are determined to make sure that happens. It’s the same with the Department of State.
Pete Loganbill, Assistant News Editor at “The Collegian” at Kansas State University: Hi, this is Pete from K-State Collegian. Thanks for being here Mr. Secretary. Why was the Road to GES Heartland event held in Overland Park, Kansas and not in a larger city in the United States like Washington D.C. or New York?
Pompeo: Yeah, cause I wanted it to be here. Cause it is incredibly important that the heartland of America is represented in the State Department and that the heartland of America also benefits from the work that the State Department does. It’s also important that the people in the State Department get to see the great things that are going on, not just here in Kansas, but in Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa and all the places that are not on the West Coast and not on the East Coast. As we were developing what we were gonna do, we were partnering with the Netherlands on this, global entrepreneur summit, I thought it was important that we do this in a place that’s plenty big enough, a city that’s plenty big enough that has represented some of the greatest entrepreneurship in recorded history and I wanted to get a chance to experience that with the State Department and to also make sure those great entrepreneurs got to experience all it is that the State Department can do to help them grow their businesses all around the world.
Audrey Korte, reporter at “The Sunflower” at Wichita State University: This is Audrey Korte for “The Sunflower.”
Pompeo: Yes, ma'am.
Korte: I’m wondering, as student reporters, we appreciate the fact that you’ve included student reporters in the conversation today and that you’ve gone out of your way to do that. What’s your feeling on the role of student news? What function do you think that it plays in a democracy?
Pompeo: Oh my goodness, some of the finest writers that we all know today began working on periodicals that they often times as they started high school, but often honed in their skill while they were in college. Sometimes writing for the yearbook, sometimes writing for the school newspaper, sometimes writing for another journal or periodical on campus. So I have tried, certainly when I’ve traveled here in the United States, as a member of congress or as the Ad director or now as Secretary of State, to always make some time to hear from that next generation of great young reporters. Reporting is a profession. Done well, it is incredibly important. Getting facts right, being willing to really work hard and not just write some rumor, not just write some half baked story, but rather to really do real, honest to goodness reporting where the consumer, the reader of that writing actually benefits from learning as a result of that is essential to American democracy and it’s why I try to make a little bit of time for those folks who I hope are engaged in that profession for years and decades to come.
Korte: Thank you, I have one more question. As you know, Dr. John Bardo did pass away last week and we’re in a phase of the changing of the guard, I guess you could call it here at Wichita State. Are you familiar with WSU’s Chief of Staff, Andy Schlapp, and do you think he would make a good university president?
Pompeo: Oh, I’m gonna leave the decision on who's gonna be the next leader at Wichita State to the folks who would know it best. So, I know the university and the board of trustees will make a good decision.
Korte: Ok, thank you.
Matt Dollard, Editor-in-Chief of “The Arrow” at Southeast Missouri State University: Yes, Matthew Dollard from Southeast Missouri State. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that President Trump was hoping that the best and brightest minds from around the world were coming to work in our country. A large number of students at Southeast are international students, but those numbers have declined since President Trump took office. How can you ensure that the best and brightest minds do feel welcome to come and study and work in our country?
Pompeo: Yeah, I’m not sure your data’s quite right, but suffice it to say, the Trump administration is absolutely focused on making sure that the next generation of great minds comes to study at the greatest universities in the world, which are still here in the United States. So, there’s two pieces to that. One is ensuring that the Department of Education and state leaders all across the country continue to make sure that their universities have the resources they need to deliver a world class education, an education that people from all across the world still value. I see it every day. When I travel as the Secretary of State, it is a rare occasion when I meet a leadership team, my counterpart or the Deputy Foreign Minister, that some significant member of their team didn’t spend a significant piece of their life studying in the West, often in the United States of America. We’ve got to make sure our institutions are still attractive. It’s primarily a state function, but there’s a federal role there as well and the second thing is, we’ve got to make sure that we have a process where students who want to come here can study. I’m convinced, I see it every day, I see young people from all across the world that clamoring to come study in the United States of America. I think that proposition is more attractive today than it was a year ago, or two years ago and certain than it was 10 or 20 years ago as well. I’m convinced the brightest talent from all across the world will still flock to the United States because we continue to be a beacon for liberty and a place where a world class education on cutting edge knowledge will be available to those who are willing to work hard to get it.
Spoon: I have another question, if I could.
Spoon: Mr. Secretary, I do think this is an important question and I was just wondering if you could explain to us why you’re reaching out specifically to student newspapers on college campuses. As Mr. Kuros (the office of press relations for the State Department) put it to me today, this is a historic move for the Secretary of State as this is not normal for the Secretary of State to reach out to college campuses, but I wanted to know why you were doing this when you’ve provided cover for a president who has made light of violence against the press, has mocked disabled reporters and has even offered to pay the legal fees of supporters who assault members of the media?
Pompeo: Yeah, President Trump and I both understand how the importance of press freedom and the importance for students like you to have the opportunity to say things. What we value is when you say things that are truthful and that you don’t engage in political rhetoric as a journalist that is not reflective of reality. What’s important is that we make sure that we have facts and data and that we report things, that reporters report things that are truthful and accurate and that they work hard to make sure they get those facts right or determined to do that. And, I couldn’t tell you, you suggested that it is unusual for Secretaries of State to engage with reporters at academic institutions across America. I think that’s unfortunate. I think that’s sad. I wish my predecessors had taken some of their time to do it. They were certainly all busy people, I certainly have a full agenda as well, but it’s an imperative that we get this right, that you all have every chance to hear from America’s senior leaders, to take your measure of them, to ask us difficult questions. We have responsibility to answer for our actions and to speak the truth to you as best we know and the best we can deliver and I hope I’ve done that with y’all today.
Spoon: Ok, thank you Mr. Secretary.
Pompeo: Thank you.
Marten: And that’s where we have to wrap this. We appreciate your time. Thank you Mr. Secretary.
Pompeo: Great, thank you all very much. Good luck to y’all.