Unalienable rights are central to who Americans are

Mike Pompeo and woman sitting next to flags and the State Department seal (State Dept./Freddie Everett)
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo with Mary Ann Glendon, chair of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, in Philadelphia on July 16 (State Dept./Freddie Everett)

Reverence for unalienable human rights defines the United States, says Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

The nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, proclaims every human being is born with unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But around the world, political and civil rights have declined worldwide for the 14th straight year, the secretary reported, and 4 billion people live under autocratic or quasi-authoritarian regimes.

“It is clear that unalienable rights are central to who we are as Americans,” said Pompeo on July 16. “But here’s where I come in as secretary of state. They have to underpin our foreign policy.”

Pompeo introduced a report by the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which he formed in 2019. The commission includes 11 academics, philosophers and activists who provide the secretary with advice on human rights based on the nation’s founding principles.

“America is fundamentally good, and has much to offer the world, because our founders recognized the existence of God-given unalienable rights and designed a durable system to protect them,” the secretary said.

Graphic with Pompeo quote about unalienable rights with photo of Pompeo (State Dept./Photo: State Dept./Ronny Przysucha)There is nothing more fundamental to who we are than our reverence for unalienable rights.”

Pompeo’s remarks built on his 2019 speech at the Claremont Institute on the need to craft American foreign policy based on the principles of the nation’s founders.

The founders’ respect for unalienable rights, he said, allowed the country to acknowledge its early failings in its treatment of slaves and Native Americans.

“Indeed, our own commitment to unalienable rights at home has proved a beacon of hope for men and women abroad pursuing their own liberties,” the secretary said.