John Vasconcellos

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John Vasconcellos
John Vasconcellos 2009
Born John Bernard Vasconcellos, Jr.
(1932-05-11)May 11, 1932
San Jose, California, U.S.
Died May 24, 2014(2014-05-24) (aged 82)
San Jose, California, U.S.
Residence Santa Clara, California, U.S.
Nationality United States
Alma mater Bellarmine College Preparatory and Santa Clara University
Known for California State Assembly, self-esteem
Political party Democrat

John Bernard Vasconcellos, Jr. (May 11, 1932 – May 24, 2014) was an American politician from California and member of the Democratic Party. He represented the Silicon Valley as a member of the California State Assembly for 30 years and a California State Senator for 8 years. His lifelong interest in psychology led to his advocacy of the self-esteem movement in California politics.

Early life[edit]

Vasconcellos came from Portuguese (paternal) and German (maternal) roots. He graduated from Bellarmine College Preparatory and Santa Clara University. After graduating magna cum laude and valedictorian of his class from Santa Clara, Vasconcellos spent two years as a lieutenant in the United States Army, serving in West Germany. Upon his return, he reenrolled in SCU, obtaining a law degree in 1959. He joined the law firm of Ruffo & Chadwick; after a year, he joined the staff of Governor Pat Brown for one year before returning to the firm.[1]


In 1966, Vasconcellos ran for a seat in the California State Assembly; he took office in 1967. By 1980 he was one of the longest serving members of the Assembly, second only to Speaker Willie Brown. Due to the Assembly's policy of awarding leadership positions based on seniority, he became the chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful assignments in the California Legislature.[1] Vasconcellos proposed the State Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem in October 1986.[2] In 1989, Brown appointed Vasconcellos to chair the Select Assembly Committee on Ethics. Vasconcellos held the positions until he was forced out of the Assembly in 1996 by term limits.[1]

He then ran for, and won, a seat in the California State Senate, again representing Silicon Valley. In the State Senate, he chaired the Public Safety, Education, and Economic Development committees. Vasconcellos served two terms in the State Senate, again limited by term limits.[1]

Throughout his long public career Vasconcellos worked to illuminate the link between personal psychology and politics.[3]

In March 2004, Vasconcellos introduced Senate Bill 1606, known as Training Wheels for Citizenship, which would allow people 14 or older to vote. The votes of 14- and 15-year-olds would count as a quarter of a vote, and of 16- and 17-year-olds a half.[4] The National Youth Rights Association supported the bill, but Republican legislators criticized it. Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, compared this bill's fractional vote to the policy of the Three-Fifths Compromise, which gave slaves three-fifths representation in the early history of the U.S.[5] Vasconcellos abandoned the bill after it fell one vote short in the final committee.[6]

Later career[edit]

After representing the Silicon Valley for 38 years in the California Legislature, Vasconcellos retired on November 30, 2004. In order to carry forward the vision and leadership of Vasconcellos' politics, friends and colleagues created The Vasconcellos Project. As its first initiative, The Vasconcellos Project launched the Politics of Trust Network (PTN), a civic engagement enterprise that seeks to become a prime mover in advancing this new vision and practice of politics.

Vasconcellos was the second longest elected state legislator in California history (and the longest in length of continuous service). He was known for his work on public education and the state budget during his career in the legislature.


Vasconcellos died in San Jose, California from multiple organ failure, thirteen days after his 82nd birthday.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Biography of John Vasconcellos" (PDF), Preliminary Guide to the John Vasconcellos Papers, Online Archive of California, pp. 2–7, April 25, 2003 
  2. ^ "Now, the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem". The New York Times. 1986-10-11. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  3. ^ John Vasconcellos: The New Politics by Hal Plotkin Archived 2014-07-29 at the Wayback Machine. San Jose Metro 1992-10-29.
  4. ^ "SB1606 - Voting age". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  5. ^ Bailey, Eric (2004-03-09). "Giving New Meaning to 'Youth Vote'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  6. ^ Bauce, Rio (2005-04-17). "Transferring teen clout to the voting booth". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  7. ^ "John Vasconcellos, longtime Silicon Valley lawmaker dies at 82". Los Angeles 24 May 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
Preceded by
Al Alquist
California State Assemblyman, 24th District
Succeeded by
Leona Egeland
Preceded by
John Francis Foran
California State Assemblyman, 23rd District
Succeeded by
Dom Cortese
Preceded by
Chuck Quackenbush
California State Assemblyman, 22nd District
Succeeded by
Elaine Alquist
Preceded by
Al Alquist
California State Senator, 13th District