YEREVAN and FRESNO — Congressman Jim Costa from California’s 16th Congressional District toured the American University of Armenia (AUA) on July 20, as part of a four-day visit to Armenia, which included meetings with Armenian lawmakers. Over 150 people joined US Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills and Honorary Consul of Armenia to Fresno Berj Apkarian in hearing Rep. Costa speak about US-Armenia relations and the role of AUA.
In his remarks,. Costa announced the establishment of an endowment at AUA by Fresno resident Edward Kashian, reflecting the close existing relationship between California State University, Fresno (CSU Fresno) and AUA. He also touched upon his efforts in Congress, the worldwide political climate, the 2016 US presidential election, the realities of today’s Armenian-American community in Fresno, as well as the current situation in Nagorno Karabagh (Artsakh).
“You should just call me Jim Costigian” stated Rep. Costa, noting that while he may not be Armenian, he has grown up with Armenians. He continued his remarks by talking about his close relationship with Armenians in the Central Valley of California. “When I think of my first visit to Armenia, stepping foot on Armenian soil yesterday, I think in some ways I have come home,” stated Costa. He continued, “I have a special concern or relation because I grew up in Fresno, California, and I affectionately refer to the land I grew up as the Land of William Saroyan.”
Costa reasserted the fact that the Armenian Genocide was in fact genocide and remains hopeful the House of Representatives will recognize it as such. The congressman emphasized a stronger Armenia will develop as a result of close partnerships with American institutions such as AUA and CSU Fresno. He stated in his closing remarks, “It is why we educate young people at this fine University, as well as others around the world, about facts mattering and how you can make a difference. And that you are the future. Each and everyone one of you are the future. You do well, Armenia does well.” Throughout his talk, Rep. Costa stressed hoe facts matter when it comes to politics and that democracy isn’t easy, it’s a work in progress.
Costa represents California’s 16th Congressional District which includes all of Merced County and parts of both Fresno and Madera Counties. Costa’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Azores, and he is very proud of his Portuguese roots. Raised on a dairy farm in Fresno’s Kearney Park area, Congressman Costa is a third-generation family farmer. Costa is a member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, and during his time in Congress, he has continually urged the Administration and Congress to appropriately recognize the Armenian Genocide. Costa has a close working relationship with Armenians throughout the US.
Philanthropist Edward Kashian is known for being one of the Central Valley’s top real estate development and asset/property management leaders. Kashian’s developments are renowned throughout the Central Valley for their beauty as well as their operational efficiency. With a focus on developing his community, Kashian has become an iconic figure in the social, political and developmental fabric of Fresno. Long active in civic affairs, Kashian has applied vision along with his fiscal and financial management expertise to many groups including Community Hospital Medical System, University of California, Fresno Madera Agency on Aging, San Joaquin River Trust and has served as the environmental appointee to the San Joaquin River Conservancy.
Securing scholarships for promising students is a priority for AUA and will be a focus of the 25th Anniversary Gala being held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on November 19. Longtime AUA benefactors Dr. Mihran and Elizabeth Agbabian will be among those being honored for their ongoing generosity and commitment to the University. The evening’s keynote speaker will be entrepreneur/philanthropist Ruben Vardanayn. Los Angeles community leaders Zaven Akian and Sinan Sinanian will serve as co-chairs. An exclusive clip previewing the upcoming film “The Promise” (directed by Terry George and starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon) will also be shown.