4CD Chancellor Recounts ‘Extraordinary Experience’ Attending Last Month’s State of the Union

Photo from 4CD.edu

When President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union speech last month in Washington D.C., he did it with a special guest in attendance: Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, the interim chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District (4CD) that governs Diablo Valley College.

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who represents California’s 10th district, invited Mehdizadeh to attend the speech as his guest. Mehdizadeh, who was already scheduled to be in the nation’s capital for a conference and legislative visits, wouldn’t have considered passing up the honor.

“I’ve watched it on television for, gosh, decades,” Mehdizadeh told The Inquirer in an interview several days after Biden’s Feb. 7 address to the nation.

As a girl who arrived in America from Iran when she was eight, watching presidents speak to both houses of Congress on primetime TV had always evoked “the sense of pride in being an American, especially given that I am actually someone who immigrated to this country at a young age.”

“But to really, frankly, see it live and present was an extraordinary experience,” she said.

Mehdizadeh said that during her years working in the 4CD she has maintained a close relationship with Rep. DeSaulnier, who has “been a great supporter of higher education in general, but specifically [in] Contra Costa County.”

The congressman has visited community college campuses in Contra Costa, including the Los Medanos College Brentwood campus and the DVC San Ramon campus, and recently supported a million-dollar federal grant that aims to assist the district’s development of free open educational resources (OER) for students.

A press release sent by the 4CD on Feb. 22 confirmed that the district will receive the grant and acknowledged Rep. DeSaulnier as well as Senator Alex Padilla for their endorsement.

For Mehdizadeh, government support for community colleges is a critical piece of the country’s educational system—and Biden’s speech drove home that point.

“I was actually very excited that he talked about both community colleges and the role that community colleges play in the delivery of higher education towards communities,” Mehdizadeh said.

In his speech, Biden talked specifically about the Pell Grant, a federal grant given to college students whose families make under $45,000.

According to Biden, “We’re making progress by reducing student debt, increasing Pell Grants for working and middle-class families.”

To witness the president speaking in the historic chamber of the Capitol building left its mark on Mehdizadeh.

“It was extraordinary,” she said. “To really see democracy in action is quite an experience.”