Obama picks his man for Oslo

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US President Barack Obama has settled on a veteran Boston lawyer to be his new ambassador to Norway. Barry B White, not surprisingly, is also a major campaign fundraiser for the Democrats and worked hard to help get Obama elected.

Many Norwegians have been eagerly awaiting who Obama would appoint as his ambassador to Norway. Obama enjoys widespread popularity in Norway and there was little doubt the nominee would be a major Obama backer.

US presidents rarely send a career diplomat to a relatively friendly capital like Oslo. Rather, the ambassadors coming to Norway generally have been key fund-raisers and party loyalists who contributed generously to their president’s campaigns or encouraged others to do so. The practice is often viewed as a reward for good service, but it also provides reasonable assurance that the president’s views will be well-represented overseas.

White, age 66, has long been active in campaigns for Democrats running for office, including the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992. The business law expert was a major backer of efforts to usher Obama into the White House, serving on the National Finance Committee for the “Obama for America” organization and as co-chair of “New England Lawyers for Obama for America.”

The Boston Herald reported that White personally donated USD 16,000 to Obama’s campaign and has given more than USD 80,000 to Democratic campaigns over the past 12 years, according to US federal election records.

‘Commitment and dedication’

Now Obama has nominated White to be his ambassador to Norway. Obama stated that “Barry brings commitment and dedication to this position and I am grateful that he will be joining our administration at this important time. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”

The nomination is subject to confirmation by the US Senate but is likely to go through when senators return from their August summer holidays. Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that White and his wife Eleanor may be in place in Oslo by Christmas.

White himself has already displayed diplomatic tendencies, telling Aftenposten that he didn’t want to say anything about his nomination until it’s been approved by the US Senate. He did tell media outlets in Boston, however, that he was “very honored to be appointed by the president as our country’s representative to Norway. I look forward to working with the Senate in this process.”

Long legal career

White has a long and distinguished career behind him. He graduated from Harvard College in 1964 and from Harvard Law School in 1967, after serving as editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He’s worked for the Foley Hoag law firm in Boston for 40 years, serving as its managing partner for more than 13 years and, according to Foley Hoag, specializing in areas of the law dealing with business and venture capital, especially technology business ventures.

White also headed Lex Mundi, billed as “the world’s largest international association of independent law firms.” He’s also been general counsel for he Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, is a director of the Massachusetts Alliance for International Business and has served on a long list of boards of directors.