- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2013

Twelve generations after John Winthrop left England in 1630 to seek religious liberty in Massachusetts, his descendant Matthew Winthrop Barzun will soon return as U.S. ambassador.

Winthrop, the first governor of the Bay Colony, borrowed a phrase from the Sermon on the Mount to describe the promise of the New World and set a rhetorical style for presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan.

“We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill,” he told fellow Puritans on the voyage to Boston. “The eyes of all people are upon us.”

Mr. Barzun told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations this week that Winthrop’s words apply today in the ties between United States and the United Kingdom.

They “describe the hopes and expectations held by so many around the world for the U.S.-U.K. relationship,” he said.

President Obama last month nominated the 42-year-old Internet entrepreneur who helped bankroll both of his presidential campaigns. First. he appointed Mr. Barzun ambassador to Sweden, where he served from 2009 to 2011. Mr. Barzun’s wife, Brooke, is heiress to the Jack Daniels whiskey empire.

Mr. Barzun said during his confirmation hearing this week that he struggled to explain to the youngest of his three children the meaning of the “special relationship” between the two countries. The Senate confirmed him on Thursday.

“Words like ‘allies’ didn’t work,” he said. “‘Historic bilateral bonds’ were met with a blank stare. I thought for a while and then said, ‘We’re best friends.’ That worked.”

Mr. Barzun’s nomination surprised many diplomatic observers who expected Mr. Obama to chose Anna Wintour, the British-born editor of American Vogue fashion magazine.

A former aide to late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dismissed Mr. Barzun’s nomination as an “insult,” adding that Mr. Obama’s former fundraiser is unqualified to serve in America’s top diplomatic post.

“In many Western countries, this kind of appointment would be viewed as an unacceptable form of corruption,” Nile Gardiner wrote in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“The appointment of Matthew Barzun and other major fundraisers to key diplomatic posts is an insult to the American people, as well as an insult to the countries to which they are being sent,” Mr. Gardiner, now at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, wrote after the White House announced the nomination. “America’s closest friend, Great Britain, deserves to have an ambassador of weight and gravitas.”

Most U.S. ambassadors to Britain have been political appointees of both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Raymond G.H. Seitz was the only career diplomat to serve as ambassador in London in modern history. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

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