Michael D. Barnes (US’62)

Serving his country with ethics and cooperation

For Michael Barnes (US’62), a career shaping public policy across five decades rests on one consistent throughline: a cooperative spirit and ability to reach across the aisle. 

Even before going to Congress as a Democrat representing a red district, or working in a bipartisan manner as President of the Brady Center for the Prevention of Gun Violence, or chairing the bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics, Barnes had a comfortable rapport with those “across the aisle.”

“At Principia during the 1960 presidential election, almost all my friends were for Nixon, but I got excited by Kennedy. I volunteered for Kennedy and I never stopped being inspired.”

With the President’s exhortation to “ask what you can do for your country” echoing in his ears, Barnes completed his master’s degree in international studies and immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps. That spirit of service and bipartisan optimism persists to this day, with his role as Chair of the Office of Congressional Ethics. “If we are to move forward together,” Barnes asserts, “the Office of Congressional Ethics may be the example of how we can get there.”

Recalling his Principia experience—participating in debate club, traveling to Principia College for Model U.N., venturing out with classmates to hear Dr. King speak at a local synagogue—Barnes says, “Principia was a springboard for me. It was a special and formative experience; It’s hard to overstate how important Principia was.”

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