The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses U.S. adversaries in well-received speech

Pompeo touched on foreign policy and domestic issues in his speech headlining Session Two
Jordan Hoover
Mike Pompeo addresses students during Session Two.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his foreign policy experience to provide insight into issues such as the Russia-Ukraine War, the conflict in Gaza and nuclear tensions with North Korea.

He said he was the first American to spend considerable time with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, since former NBA player Dennis Rodman. 

He also described the U.S. government’s strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, and said, “Iranians are still trying to kill me.”

Pompeo criticized Secretary of State Antony Blinken for asking Israel to constrain itself. The Palestinian death toll recently surpassed 28,000, according to Reuters.

Pompeo was born and raised in Orange, California, and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986.

Pompeo graduated first in his class and went on to serve as a cavalry officer in Germany before graduating from Harvard Law School.

He moved to Wichita, Kansas, to work as a lawyer. While there he founded Thayer Aerospace, where he served as CEO for more than a decade. 

In 2010, Pompeo was elected to serve four terms as a representative in Kansas’ 4th District. In 2017, former President Donald Trump appointed Pompeo as director of the CIA.

After turmoil in the cabinet, Trump dismissed Rex Tillerson in April 2018 and appointed Pompeo as secretary of state.

Pompeo described his journey to D.C. as “really something.” To Pompeo, hard work was the key to his success—the idea that he would go from working in a machine shop to Secretary of State once appeared “laughable,” he said.

After becoming the world’s top diplomat, Pompeo said he had to stay focused amid “a ton of noise inside the Trump administration.” 

Pompeo headlined Mock Convention’s second session, joined by Washington and Lee alum Mike Allen, New York University professor Jonathan Haidt, and former Secretary of Defense Chris Miller.

Students, such as Mackenzie Morante, ’27, found Pompeo’s speech to be enjoyable overall.

“Mike Pompeo was charismatic and hilarious,” Morante said.   

Jack Tompkins, ’27,  agreed.

“Mike Pompeo was… the most entertaining speaker all weekend long,” Tompkins said.

His jokes drew laughs from the crowd throughout the nearly hour-long discussion, including when Pompeo performed impressions of Trump.

Pompeo described America today, under Biden’s leadership, as a “worse place now than three years ago,” citing domestic and international challenges.

When asked about the 240,000 crossings that the Texas border saw in October 2023, Pompeo said the issue is “very straightforward” and “simple,” but did not offer any tangible solutions.

Pompeo claimed that during his tenure, the Trump administration was seeing “300,000 crossings a year, not 300,000 crossings a month.” But according to the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection, in 2019, there were 851,508 crossings.

In addition, the Biden administration has not seen 300,000 crossings in a month, as Pompeo claimed.

Pompeo also said he was skeptical of Republicans funding Ukraine, saying Putin only poses a “regional threat.”

“Even though I may not have agreed with everything Pompeo said, I felt like he presented his viewpoints well, and I enjoyed listening to him,” said Gaby White, ’27.

“People might’ve expected a dull, older Kansan,” student interviewer Palmer Van Tuyl, ’25, said. But instead, students got “a personable and charming leader, whose command of geopolitics and sense of service undoubtedly left a lot of people hoping his career in politics is far from over.”

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