Last night, I was saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and former colleague Senator John Vasconcellos at his home in Santa Clara, California.
I had the privilege of serving alongside John in both the California State Assembly and Senate.
I always admired the passion he had for his work and his ability to bring people of opposite political ideals together. I fondly remember dinner meetings at his home, where Democrats, like myself, and Republicans, like Jim Brulte, would break bread.
Some of my fondest memories of John are from the work we did together to establish The California-Japan Scholars Program- a student exchange program established to improve economic, technological, and cultural relations.
Together, we traveled to Tokyo, along Bill Lockyer and Cathie Wright, where we met with then U.S. Ambassador to Japan and former Vice President Walter Mondale.
John authored the legislation that created the California-Japan Scholars Program, leaving a lasting legacy of cooperation and goodwill.
I’ll never forget that trip to Japan, especially our visit to a local women’s shelter. John always looked for the best in people and he believed that government should work to help people become their best. He didn’t just believe in human kindness and tolerance- he lived these values.
John retired from politics in 2004 after serving 30 years in the Assembly and eight years in the state Senate. Although his spirit will live on through his work, John’s presence in California political life will be greatly missed.