The State Department Is Winning for America
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center, National Harbor, Maryland
American Conservative Union Foundation
February 28, 2020
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. (Applause and cheers.) Thank you – thank you so much. This is awesome. This is awesome.
I – so I survived an introduction by my wife. That's good. (Laughter.) And I just left the Oval Office; I survived that, too. (Laughter.) And the President – I told the President where I was going. I said, "I got to go. I got to get over there. The people are all waiting for me." And I said, "I've got to defend America's foreign policy." He says, "Oh, that'll be easy." (Laughter.)
Look, I am thrilled to be here at the largest conservative gathering in the country – except every Trump rally. (Applause.)
And you should all know I was going to pass out copies tonight, but I heard Nance the Ripper is still on the loose. So – (laughter). So no hard copies of my remarks. (Applause.)
Let me start with a simple question – I think I know the answer: Can anyone in this room remember a better time to be an American conservative? (Applause and cheers.)
We are safer than ever, our economy is more prosperous than ever, and President Trump will not stop winning. (Applause.) It's what a lot of folks have been working on for a long time.
And you've heard from Susan, not so many years ago, Susan and I were right there beside you. We were working our tails off as grassroots volunteers trying to get good candidates elected. Sue Schlapp, who introduced my wife, was running for city council in Wichita. We did our best to help her be successful. (Applause.) She was a great city councilperson. But we did what you all do. We donated to causes that we believed in. With most of our time, we raised our family, we taught fifth grade Sunday school together. That was great practice for my current job. (Laughter.) Look, we were active in our church – typical deplorable stuff. (Laughter.)
As I was thinking about this group and what I would say today, I thought: When I was where you are, what would I like to have heard from a Secretary of State back then? What would I have liked to have known?
How does the State Department spend your money, taxpayer money? What does the Secretary do all day to advance America's interests and its values? How did that guy get the job? (Laughter.)
I can't answer the last question, but I'm going to tackle the first two with you all today. I want to talk about how under President Trump's leadership, the State Department is winning for America once again. (Applause.)
We have 74,000 people. We have embassies in 192 countries that go from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
On a daily basis, the State Department does everything from helping American companies be successful abroad and do deals. We screen visa applicants to keep America safe. We forge new alliances.
And if you lose your passport, come see me.
But apart from that daily work, apart from the core, President Trump and I have set a few overarching principles about what we need to do in the world, and the things that we do not need to do.
Simple mission – this may sound trite – but we have to keep America safe. (Applause.)
This may seem obvious.
And we have – President Trump has constructed a foreign policy around government's most basic mission, national security.
That's what we were protecting when we launched the strike that killed the terrorist who had murdered and maimed hundreds of Americans. (Applause.)
It's really been my honor to help President Trump rid the world not just of Qasem Soleimani, but of other truly demonic, evil people. (Applause.)
Qasim al-Raymi was a founder and leader of al-Qaida. He's gone. (Applause.)
Hamza bin Ladin, the son of Usama bin Ladin, a rising figure in al-Qaida – gone. (Applause.)
And of course, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS – gone. (Applause.)
And can we all agree that the world is a better place because these people are gone? (Applause.)
When it comes to these missions, it's not just the State Department. I'm part of a big team. I'm in constant contact with our Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who happens to be a college classmate of mine. Our intelligence head, my former deputy, Gina Haspel, is running the CIA. General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a great American and my neighbor.
In fact, the only key member of our team that I don't know well is that German shepherd, and I'm going to get to know him. (Laughter.)
It's a remarkable team that the President has, that he has put together to help deliver President Trump's foreign policy.
A second priority that I have set and the President's set is to advance American values.
That includes defending that first freedom: religious liberty. (Applause.)
Some people look at the killings of Christians in the Middle East – or the imprisonment of Uighur Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs, other believers in China – and say, "Look, that's not our problem." But I say, and President Trump says, oh yes it is.
It's our problem. Because the God that has blessed this country as the standard bearer for religious freedom is important everywhere. (Applause.)
Nations that respect this right are freer, more prosperous, more secure, and more stable. And if we don't defend religious freedom, no one else will. It's why President Trump has made this incredibly central to what it is we are trying to achieve. (Applause.)
I'll give you another great example. It's why, under President Trump's leadership, we have aligned United States assistance, American aid with American values by reinstating the Mexico City Policy that prohibits one single dollar of yours for going to an abortion anywhere in the world. (Applause.)
President Trump understands deeply that abortion isn't a human right; it takes a human life.
And there's another common sense, core American value President Trump has injected into our foreign policy: taking care of our own. It's why we have all worked so hard to liberate American hostages. (Applause.)
One of my proudest moments, and I know the President's too, it's part of our idea that says our foreign policy will have realism, restraint, and respect.
This mission stands out. One of my first big tasks as the Secretary of State was to get a handful of Americans home from North Korea. (Applause.) We flew to North Korea, we negotiated them out, we made the long flight home. When Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song, and Tony Kim got off that airplane it was about 2:30 a.m. not far from here, Joint Air Base Andrews, they cried tears of joy. You'll remember the pictures, President Trump and Melania were on the tarmac to meet them.
As they were getting off the plane, one of them handed me a card. I put it in my suit pocket as they were making their way towards the crowd. When I got home that night, I saw Susan, I pulled out the card, and on that index card was Psalm 126. It read as follows. It said, "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
And then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."
Amen to that. (Applause.)
Many of the hostages I've released we have not been able to make public. There is nothing I'm more proud of than the priority President Trump has made of bringing home every American, and we've had lots of success. (Applause.)
So that's the mission of the State Department. How do I spend my time advancing it? You should know that it's different, different Secretaries kind of roll different.
I'm not in it for the fancy dinners in Paris or Switzerland or Vienna. I've only been to those places twice during my time on the job. One of my predecessors went 62 times. (Laughter.) That, my friends, is a lot of cocktails. (Laughter.) He also went to Antarctica, and I don't know who he was negotiating with there. (Laughter.)
Look, I'd rather go be with my team in tough places, places that present hardship to the young men and women who are serving as diplomats all across the world. (Applause.)
Even as we stand here today, even as we stand here today, we have people in China, people in Kabul, and Luanda, Angola, and Baghdad. These are often places secretaries don't go as frequently – places like Hungary and Iceland, Belarus, and Paraguay.
When I go to these places, I get a chance to thank my team that is delivering America's value set all across the world alongside our brothers and sisters in the Department of Defense. It is an incredible privilege for me to be part of that. (Applause.)
And when I meet with leaders, it's – I'm pretty much just Mike. I live by a code that I learned why Susan talked about it, and I learned this at West Point: Just tell the truth. Shoot straight. They prefer it. It's the way President Trump operates as well.
I set clear expectations for what it means to be on America's side. I ask our partners to step up on the biggest challenges we face, whether that is countering the Islamic Republic of Iran, countering China, restoring democracy in Venezuela.
You could see President Trump's mission set. You can see his heart in our foreign policy. We are countering the face of oppression around the world. This was a value that we all know from the enormous successes we had under President Reagan and when the Iron Curtain fell when I was a young cavalry officer.
Another part of shooting straight is being honest with yourself. You have to tell – you have to be clear about what you can do and what you can't. No foreign policy that is built on fantasy ever works. It's what we have had to correct in our time. (Applause.)
Under previous administrations, our nation signed dangerous agreements that made Americans less safe, like the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Accord, and bad trade deals. People said these things couldn't be fixed.
Previous administrations were proud of themselves for these agreements. They got to go to the ribbon cutting and the signing.
But everyone knows this – the point is changing behavior, not signing documents. (Applause.)
If there is no compliance, or if the agreements were flawed, you've got to get out of them. They're just ink and paper.
And so we did. President Trump's a smart business leader. We changed course. We renegotiated terms. We got better deals for each and every one of you. (Applause.)
Now, our success depends on who you ask. If you ask the media, maybe not so much. (Laughter.) If you ask our friends (inaudible) I was at a hearing today where they said President Trump's foreign policy was a failure.
But remember, these are the same people who said for years that we could never achieve exactly what we've done. (Applause.)
They said – and I've read it. They said, well, you can never successfully confront China on trade. We have a phase one trade deal. (Applause.)
They said you can never get Mexico to control its border. And there are thousands of Mexican troops helping us stop the crossings. (Applause.)
They said you'd never defeat ISIS. And the caliphate is gone. (Applause.)
And they said we'd never free Pastor Brunson from his prison in Turkey. And he's home. (Applause.)
They said Mexico and Canada will never renegotiate their deal. (Laughter.)
They said the North Koreans would never engage in a conversation about their nuclear weapons program. They said they'd never release their hostages and that we couldn't get the remains of our soldiers home. And we've done that. (Applause.)
They said that pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal would lead to runaway proliferation. But it's restored deterrence.
And they said taking out Qasem Soleimani would lead to World War III. And it's actually made our world far safer. (Applause.)
We should – it's easy to forget, but they said that moving our embassy to Jerusalem would set the Middle East alight. That didn't happen. And our plan represents the best chance for peace in decades. (Applause and cheers.)
I could go on, but time is short and winning is exhausting. (Laughter.)
And while I know fatigue and stress is definitely part of my job, I know too – Susan reminded you I'm the 70th Secretary of State. I know President Trump is the 45th president, more turnover in my gig. (Laughter.)
I wanted to leave you with one last thought.
I am frequently challenged by those who disagree with our foreign policy. They ask questions such as, "Why is it okay for America to intervene between two countries with nuclear weapons?" Or, "Why does America care who's elected the next leader in Venezuela?" And so on.
I answer this way, typically.
I've traveled a bit and I've spent significant and necessary time with evil individuals who have American blood on their hands. And I've also hugged and held children in every corner of the world.
In both instances, they know the answer to those questions. They know America under President Trump means business. They know that America is a force for good. (Applause.)
It does not mean – it does not mean we get it right every day.
But I can assure you – I can assure you – that wherever I go, working for President Trump, people tug on my sleeves. They want to meet me. They want to meet me not because I'm Mike from Kansas, because I represent the greatest nation in the history of civilization. (Applause and cheers.)
It is my honor – it is my honor to represent each and every one of you every day.
Thank you for what you're doing to keep this country exceptional.
God bless you and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
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