“Italian-Americans came to our country, and state, poor and proud,” Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena said during his address to the Rhode Island House of Representatives as part of last Wednesday St. Patrick’s Joseph’s Day Observance. “Poor because they escaped poverty, proud because their new America would give them and their families hope and prosperity for a better life.”
Polisena shined as a special guest of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who invited the Johnston mayor to provide the St. Patrick’s Day Italian Heritage Address on the House floor.
“As we all know, America is a nation of immigrants,” he said. “These hardworking men and women came to this country with little to no money in their pockets, but with an abundance of dreams – dreams that we still have today, to provide a better life for their families.”
Polisena, who took great pride in delivering the speech, added: “Not only did these men and women accomplish a better life for their families, but they shaped the course of history of this great nation, and specifically this state.”
Polisena also told an attentive audience that he’s proud to say that Johnston, “the community I am so privileged to represent and call my home, has the highest per-capita percentage in the state of individuals that identify themselves as being of Italian decent.”
Nationally, he said, Johnston ranks in the top 15 communities for per-capita Italian ancestry – “a feat we are very proud of.”
He spoke of how farming played a major role in the lives of Johnston’s Italian-Americans, and how men like the late and legendary John O. Pastore worked tirelessly and made quite a mark in Rhode Island and the country.
He spoke of how Italian immigrants sometimes were treated unfairly, yet continued working hard work to achieve success.
When Polisena finished, he received thunderous applause and words of praise from Mattiello, who said: “You do a great job for the citizens of Johnston as mayor. We wish you continued success in the coming weeks and years.”
State Rep. Deborah Ruggiero introduced Polisena, while Rep. Gregg M. Amore gave the traditional Italian Toast. Frank O’Donnell, a noted writer-comedian and brother of Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Steven O’Donnell, delivered the St. Patrick’s Day Irish Heritage Address.