Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will deliver a speech at Kansas State University next month, a move that has set off a new round of speculation that he’ll mount a run for Senate.
The news of Pompeo’s September appearance became public before the university intended to announce it after the news site Axios reported the plan Sunday night.
Multiple sources confirmed the accuracy of the report to The Star Monday, but the university did not officially announce Pompeo’s speech until Wednesday morning.
The secretary of state will deliver a speech on Sept. 6 as part of the university’s prestigious Landon Lecture Series. Fortune CEO Alan Murray will also deliver a lecture in the series on Sept. 27.
“This semester, we are honored to bring two prominent leaders with dynamic careers and formidable experiences to share thought-provoking messages on stage in the heart of America,” Linda Cook, the university’s chief of staff and director of community relations, said in a new release announcing the lectures. “Each will bring unique perspectives on diverse topics that impact all of us and the world around us.”
A source familiar with Pompeo’s appearance said the speech would focus on his role as the nation’s top diplomat rather than politics, but the upcoming trip to Kansas has set off a new round of speculation that the former Kansas congressman will give up his position as the nation’s top diplomat to pursue an open Senate seat in 2020.
The speech at K-State follows Pompeo’s appearance in Johnson County earlier this year for a State Department event.
Pompeo has repeatedly downplayed his interest in pursuing retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ seat, saying last month that a run is off the table. But Pompeo has also made a point of promoting his Kansas ties as he travels the globe.
He recently referred to himself as a “guy from Kansas” during a speech in Australia and last month told radio host Larry O’Connor that he is from Kansas when O’Connor began an interview by noting that Pompeo was born in California and attended high school in Orange County.
He’s also been in contact with multiple potential candidates for the Senate race.
However, Pompeo isn’t the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to deliver a lecture in the series. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue delivered a speech last year at the university, which is renowned for its agricultural research.
And the lecture series, which began in 1966 with a speech by former Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, has regularly featured appearances from cabinet secretaries, senators and presidents.
George W. Bush delivered a speech in 2006 during his second term as president. His father, George H.W. Bush, delivered a speech as vice president before ascending to the presidency.
Ronald Reagan delivered a speech as governor of California more than a decade before his election as president and then delivered another speech in 1982 during his first term as that nation’s chief executive.
Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both delivered Landon Lecture Series speeches after leaving the White House.
In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy delivered arguably the most famous speech in the series when he visited K-State just two days after declaring his campaign for president to speak passionately about ending the Vietnam War. Kennedy was assassinated less than three months after delivering his speech.
Other recent speakers include Republican Sen. Jerry Moran in 2018 and Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron in 2017.