Ketanji Brown Jackson and Patrick Jackson’s Love Story Is a Lesson in the Power of True Partnership

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It’s been, to say the least, a frustrating week on the Senate floor, as President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson has been subjected to a nonstop barrage of racist and generally offensive questioning courtesy of GOP senators like Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. Seeing a Black woman begin the process of (hopefully) being confirmed to the Supreme Court should have been a watershed moment, and for many it was. However, the historical import of Jackson’s confirmation hearings was somewhat overshadowed by the racism and gender-based idiocy that Republican senators seemed to feel perfectly comfortable lobbing her way. (Seriously, Senator Cruz—you have one of the sharpest legal minds in the country on the stand, and you waste time asking her if she believes babies are racist?) 

What felt like a corrective to that ugliness, though, was the clear and visible bond between Jackson and her husband, gastrointestinal surgeon Patrick Jackson, who was present for every moment of the hearings. Dr. Jackson has gone soft viral for the statement socks he’s worn with aplomb throughout the week, and seeing him seated behind Jackson day after day (and occasionally tearing up as she’s knocked question after question out of the park) is an inchoate lesson in the power of true partnership.

The Jacksons met at Harvard three decades ago, and the family tradition of Dr. Jackson being wowed by his wife’s professional prowess dates back quite a bit: A federal judge Jackson clerked for recalled Dr. Jackson heading directly from long nights on call at Massachusetts General Hospital to the courtroom to watch Jackson in lawyer mode. I know we tend to hand men (especially conventionally attractive, straight white men) too much credit for doing anything remotely supportive, but…I die!

The Jacksons are parents to two teenage daughters, Talia and Leila, the latter of whom was captured smiling proudly as her mother took the stand, and even that small moment was a reminder of the long-ranging effects that one spouse or partner’s support for another can have. Children learn by observing, even—especially—when you think they’re not paying attention, and Dr. Jackson has clearly set an example for his daughters that their mom’s work is something to celebrate and admire.

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