Kansas State University’s Landon Lecture series is off to a strong start this fall, with the announcement that the nation’s top diplomat will kick off the year.
Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, will speak Sept. 6. He’ll be followed Sept. 24 by Alan Murray, the president and CEO of Fortune Media, on Sept. 24.
Secretary Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, is certainly in a position worthy of the lecture series’ great legacy. Mr. Murray is as well.
That legacy has included all the presidents from Nixon through George W. Bush. It has included foreign heads of state. It has included business leaders and prominent members of the news media. They have all been in position to comment on the major issues of the day facing our nation.
All of us should be aware that it’s not easy to attract speakers of that caliber to Manhattan. While those of us here are proud of the heritage of the Landon series, it’s not exactly a household name in Washington or New York. And it’s not that K-State has money coming out its ears to pay the kinds of fees that will draw anyone.
What it takes is work, and persistence, and networking, and smart use of leverage. Secretary Pompeo may have his own political motivations for coming — there’s been plenty of speculation that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Pat Roberts, although he’s denied it — but that’s almost always true. Even presidents have their own interests at heart when they come here. Nothing wrong with that. The trick is to appeal to those interests somehow.
The lecture series is one of the things that makes Manhattan the kind of place it is — a small town with some big-city amenities. The fact that you can just drive five minutes across town, park (somewhere) and waltz into McCain or Bramlage and hear some of the decision-makers who shape our world is a really remarkable reality.
We tip our cap to the people leading that lecture series now. We certainly hope they keep the momentum going.