WASHINGTON — If confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Rick Barton, a West Boothbay Harbor native, promised Wednesday to “help to focus our direction, energize our team and seek to increase the impact of America’s efforts.”
When Barton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a hearing and questioning alongside four other federal nominees, it was hardly his first moment in the political spotlight.
He is a fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of the American Ditchley Foundation, a New York-based think tank.
Barton has been in and out of public service since 1972, when he worked in Bangor in William D. Hathaway’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.
“My prior experiences in Maine as a political, business and community leader have provided a clear sense of the possible and a deep respect for the role of our citizenry,” Barton said in his opening statement.
Barton, former chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, also has been a professor at Princeton University, deputy high commissioner of the United Nations Refugee Agency and was an adviser to the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel appointed in 2006 to analyze the Iraq war.
When asked about human rights and the U.S. role through the United Nations in preserving them, Barton said strong nations must act morally.
“We have always been champions of human rights, and when we have strayed from that standard, we have lost our standing in the world,” Barton said.
Public service and political drive run in the Barton family. Barton’s 89-year-old father, Bob Barton, was in the Foreign Service, and in his last government post, was for six years a staff member for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was present at Wednesday’s hearing, and was personally thanked by Sen. Robert Me-nendez, D-N.J., who presided over the hearing, as “someone who has helped our office a great deal.” Families, Menendez said, are “part of the sacrifice of public service.”
As for his son following in his footsteps as a public servant, Bob Barton said that it was “the culmination of all expectations and desires” and that it “absolutely thrills me.”
Rick Barton was quick to acknowledge his family. He thanked his mother, who died a little over a year ago, for her “passion, creativity and sheer joy in living” in his opening remarks.
“Loving family, many caring friends and dozens of teachers, coaches, bosses and colleagues have brought me before you today,” Barton said.