A man in a black shirt with a purple background at the Rhode Island election.

Jack’s Angle: Values for a day after Primary Day – John J. “Jack” Partridge

by John J. “Jack” Partridge, contributing writer, commentary

The first time I saw a primary candidate claim to embody ‘Rhode Island Values’ I thought the phrase might be a slam against candidates not born in Rhode Island. Even now I wonder.

The primary race is now over, or at least I hope it is, and maybe we, as voters, should consider if the questions of ’values’ deserve our continued attention. We can decry the absence of any attempt to enhance shared values by the candidates in the primary by articulating what their values might be so we, as voters, could measure their campaigns and possible tenure in office as against them.

Still to be answered is what are ‘Rhode Island values’?  Do they differ from the values of other states? Or nationally?  My first thought, upon consideration, went to a recollection of the cemetery at Normandy, France, where heroes of the greatest generation from every state lie in symmetrical rows in verdant grounds, forever together.

Are Rhode Island values really identifiable? Or are they part of the singular American sense of who we are as a country?  I am the son of a third-generation son of an immigrant family who arrived in Rhode Island and experienced the  era of ’No Irish Need Apply’, for open jobs, and of a first-generation immigrant parent – my mother was born in Poland and arrived here in 1914 as a 3-year-old. I know that family history influences my views as to values, particularly as to immigration. I am humbled and appreciate the struggles my ancestors endured upon arrivals, many of which remain to be faced by today’s immigrants, and what my ancestors aspired to and achieved. That history influences my views particularly as to immigration and social justice issues.  

For me, their stories reflect basic American and Rhode Island values, including their faith in their new homeland to provide opportunity, coupled with courage, family strengths such as self-reliance, living in a community that thought of itself as part of the ‘American way’, and with a belief in equality and not elitism, with a sense of justice and fairness in all things economic and political, being part of a great country that later inspired the patriotism exemplified at Normandy.

To me, these are the values not necessarily articulated, but lived by the people of Rhode Island, and America, and reflect what we want our representatives in Washington to live by. We may come from different perspectives, and must respect differences in approach, so long as they reflect earnest  thought and belief and are not mere party slogans or completely ”off the wall.”

These values are the threads that tie us together; keep us unified. Public policy should reflect these values in every vote taken. And our representatives in the Congress should be accountable as to faithful adherence to them.

Too bad we couldn’t get a sense of the candidates underlying values during the primary campaign. But there is still the general election in November. By then, maybe one will let us know if he or she has core beliefs as to American values, and will be worth supporting.


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John J. ‘Jack’ Partridge, is a retired lawyer and Senior Counsel to the firm of Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP, with four offices in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

A Pawtucket native, Jack graduates from St. Raphael Academy and summa cum laude of Providence College, where he majored in history. After Harvard Law School, he served in the United States Army in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal. In 1967, he joined the firm of Tillinghast Collins & Tanner. In 1988, he became a founding partner of Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP.

Jack has been engaged in many civic, political, governmental, and business organizations, serving as legal counsel to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce for 27 years and was chairman of the Old Slater Mill Association, Common Cause Rhode Island, and Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.

He is the co-founder of The Pawtucket Foundation and an officer and director of innumerable not-for-profit entities. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club and was Treasurer of the Ocean State Charities Trust.

Jack has a long history of leadership involvement with Providence College, which recognized him in 1999 with the Providence College Alumni Association Recognition Award for Public and Community Service, and in 2011, with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

He is married to the former Regina McDonald and has three children: Sarah, Gregory and David.

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