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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Speech of the 2012 Prince of Asturias Awards Ceremony

The Princess and I are honoured and fortunate, as we have returned to our beloved Asturias, to this annual awards event in Oviedo, to celebrate the triumph of intelligence, to recognize a job well done, to extol generosity and altruism, to proclaim that our Laureates are an example to one and all.

For we believe that those who dedicate their work and their time to the pursuit of truth and beauty help us find ways to move forward into the future; because we know that the work of those who put ethics and commitment before any banal desire and shared well-being before one's own drives us towards that fuller, more dignified and better life that we all yearn for. Our Laureates help us keep hope alive and, reinforce, once again, on this autumn evening - which is also an evening of light- our confidence in the noble values of the human spirit.

Our Foundation is not oblivious to today's challenges and difficulties: it cannot and does not wish to be, either. This ceremony means so much because we are accompanied -be it only for a few hours- by those who embody everything we admire. Furthermore, we are able to convey to them how their example aids, encourages and comforts us.

In the year in which Spain celebrates the bicentennial of the Constitution of Cadiz, the first constitutional text that opened the doors to the transition to the modern era in our country, the lesson of patriotism of its architects -known as Spaniards from both hemispheres- and the example of self-improvement of the people of Spain in those historic times are likewise a rewarding source of inspiration for one and all. Moreover, we are filled with pride to know that this text signified a major contribution to constitutionalism and freedom, especially in America and Europe.

This is a day for gratitude. Gratitude to our Laureates, for all they represent of what is sublime. And gratitude to those who, through their generosity, allow us to carry on our undertaking with hopes intact: our Trustees and Patrons, members of the Juries, the media and so many other people who share with us their enthusiasm, admiration and respect for the work of the Laureates, the leading figures in this ceremony. We also extend a most special greeting to the hundreds of volunteers from the Red Cross and the Food Banks who have joined us here in Oviedo today.

My most sincere congratulations to the Laureates, to whom I now wish to devote my words:

The Spanish architect Rafael Moneo has received the Award for the Arts. His name thus joins the ranks of other illustrious colleagues of his who were granted the award in previous years; among these, one of his former teachers, Francisco Javier Sainz de Oiza, from Navarre like him, whom we are sure Rafael Moneo will remember today with particular emotion, as do we.

Rafael Moneo has worked all these years with the clarity of mind and intelligence of someone fully aware that their work can and must improve the lives of others. Not unrelated to this attitude is his academic vocation, his belief that the practice of architecture has to maintain a dialogue with teaching and intellectual reflection. All this translates into his outstanding work as a teacher, above all in Spain and the United States, where he was chair of Harvard University's Department of Architecture.

The Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, the "Kursaal" in San Sebastián, the extension of the Prado Museum and other prominent international projects are sublime examples of his extraordinary talent and constitute works he has masterfully managed to integrate in the historical evolution of the city and the urban landscape.

Rafael Moneo claims this is the utmost a work of architecture can aspire to. Stated so baldly, it seems so easy and simple, and yet it is one of the most important and most difficult features to find in major architectural projects.

The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum has been granted the Award for Social Sciences for her contribution to the humanities, philosophy of law and political science. Her reflections embrace numerous topics, addressing -through her well-known "capabilities approach"- questions as diverse as gender, religion, international development, education and social justice theory.

The common thread running through her thinking is that of human vulnerability. Nussbaum examines how to foster positive feelings and emotions like friendship and love while attempting to eradicate others like violence for ever. This is because she is convinced that it is possible for us human beings to reach an agreement on a set of universal ethical principles despite our different ways of understanding what constitutes goodness.

A brilliant Hellenist, admirer and student of the philosophy of Socrates and Aristotle, Martha Nussbaum has also reflected on the process of degeneration in education, on the "shrinking of the soul", as Rabindranath Tagore so suggestively phrased it. She constantly warns us of the intellectual and ethical poverty resulting from abandoning the study of the humanities and extols us to continue working to avoid the evils inherent in this dereliction.

On numerous occasions in this very forum we have heard the call to attention by our laureates on this issue, on the urgency of ensuring the protection and development of humanistic studies as the best way to distance ourselves from the ignorance, contempt and oblivion of our past. However, we continue to perceive how we are losing -almost without realizing it- the immense wealth of wisdom contained in these studies, and how -unfortunately- the borders of the authentic education of human beings are becoming blurred. Let us recall, not without a certain shudder, the questions voiced by T.S. Eliot:

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

 Today we recognize the greatness and soundness of Martha Nussbaum's thinking and work and thank her for her tenacious defence of what ultimately makes us freer.

Shigeru Miyamoto, who has received the Award for Communication and Humanities, is one of the most distinguished representatives of Japanese graphic art, which in recent decades has conquered the world through cartoons, comics -the famous manga- and video games.  This last medium comprises Miyamoto's field of work. Among other video games, he is the author of two series -The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario- which millions of children, adolescents and also adults worldwide have played and continue to play. He commented on receiving the news of the award that his dream is to continue providing fun and joy to people of all generations around the world through his work.

But what is the secret of this truly global success? It seems that Miyamoto's talent consists in fusing Western and Eastern elements in his video games in a synthesis that is attractive to young people of all cultures. His work also embraces the Japanese literary tradition of the figure of the child-hero, like Link, the main character in The Legend of Zelda, with whom all the world's children can identify.

Equally commendable is the capacity of Miyamoto's video games to stimulate positive emotions and feelings in players, as well as the educational aspect of his creations, which always shun violence. Through them, one learns to follow the rules of the game, achieve goals and respect one's opponent while at the same time developing creativity, initiative and intelligence. We hope he continues creating with the same enthusiasm, contributing that vibrant quality brimming with energy with which he manages to unite us all -as is his goal- in fun and joy. 

The British biologist Sir Gregory Winter and American pathologist Richard Alan Lerner have obtained the Award for Technical and Scientific Research for their decisive contributions to the field of Immunology, which have made it possible to obtain antibodies of high therapeutic value. Their work shows the immense possibilities of current biotechnology to intervene in cells and biological materials, modifying their capabilities and channelling their activity toward very useful applications.

Sir Gregory Winter has discovered that it is possible to obtain antibodies in modified animal cells in such a way that they behave like antibodies able to function in the human body without being rejected. Similarly fascinated by the wide variety of antibodies that our body can produce, Dr Richard Lerner has conceived and designed new possibilities for managing this diversity and even broadening it in the test tube. The procedure that he has developed enables the repertoire of natural antibodies to be increased, creating what are known as "combinatorial antibody libraries".

We daily witness the extraordinary practical implications of Dr Winter and Dr Lerner's work: improved diagnosis and more effective treatment of many diseases that still plague mankind. Thanks to the intelligence, vocation and commitment of those who, like them, devote their lives to the advancement of knowledge, we can enhance our quality of life.

We are likewise grateful to the American writer Philip Roth, who has received the Award for Literature, for the unique, unrepeatable experience that reading his novels provides for us, the non-stop accumulation of feelings and ideas with which he builds his stories, the penetrating analysis he makes of reality and the journey through time on which we embark through his works to those many fulfilled dreams and failed utopias of which the history of his country and of his hometown of Newark is built.

Often using irony and with amazing ability and great courage, Philip Roth interprets and meticulously analyses social practices and customs and the ways in which human beings, particularly American Jews, behave and relate to each another. He also reflects both intelligently and lucidly on death, disaster, sex and chaos, through suggestive prose of great linguistic perfection and emotional effectiveness. Novels like Portnoy's Complaint, American Pastoral and Nemesis -to name but a few- are masterpieces for which Philip Roth will always be recognized as one of the greatest American writers, a virtuoso admired worldwide.

The Award for International Cooperation has been conferred on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The millions of volunteers working in this movement immediately come to mind. They will feel proud this evening -as they do daily- to belong to one of the most prestigious humanitarian networks in the world.

 The Red Cross and Red Crescent's task is enormous: to prevent and alleviate human suffering, protect life and health and ensure respect for people's dignity, especially in times of armed conflict and in situations of crisis and need anywhere on the planet. The principles governing the Movement are also noble: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. For nearly 150 years, the Red Cross and Red Crescent have worked disinterestedly and in a profoundly generous way, exemplifying a vocation for public service, in order to bring solidarity to the fore in the world.

The work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is founded on the altruism of so many dedicated people who help and assist the underprivileged, the needy and the vulnerable. In Spain, where more than two hundred thousand volunteers keep the work of this organisation alive, we can feel especially proud of helping to maintain the degree of efficiency and dedication of the International Red Cross, contributing that generous spirit of solidarity which characterizes our society and which we would especially like to highlight here today.  

Exemplarity also shines out in our Laureates receiving the Award for Sports, the soccer players Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez. Both symbolize, in the words of the Jury, "the values of friendship and companionship that go beyond the all-out rivalry of their respective teams". They are a role model for young people for their sportsmanship and fair play, without a doubt; but also for their conciliatory attitude and for the long-standing friendship highlighted in the conferral of the award as a fundamental added value to their major sporting successes. In short, in the persons of Iker and Xavi, we reward not only personal and professional excellence, but also greatness of spirit.

All these values redound in the interest of sport. We know that rivalry, ambition, competitiveness, the desire to beat the opponent, achieve more medals and trophies and win more than others are inherent to sports competitions.  Precisely for that reason, however, it is so notable to see how all this rivalry and sports clashes can exist while maintaining a deep friendship. Because friendship is affection, sincerity, comprehension, support and cooperation. Therein lies the greatness of the example of Iker and Xavi, of Xavi and Iker; in the tremendous scope of their humanity, in the loftiness of their feelings, which we recognize here today.

They also in some way represent here today all those within the world of sports who cultivate these human values, promote coexistence and solidarity and prudently manage success and fame.

The German poet Goethe wrote: "Civilization is a permanent exercise in respect. Respect for the divine, the earth, for our fellow man and so for our own dignity". Such is the way of the Spanish Federation of Food Banks, which has received the Award for Concord: working to provide us with not only an extraordinary example of what civilization is, but also a permanent example of justice.

We have already highlighted, when speaking of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the spirit of solidarity that characterises Spanish society and how, in times of exceptional difficulty, this spirit becomes more valuable, more necessary than ever. The same applies to the Food Banks. Their work, both tenacious and respectful of the needs of so many people, should not only be a source of pride for one and all, but also a unique opportunity to reflect on the enormous privations and difficulties endured by so many Spaniards.

They all know that they can count on the food banks' voluntary workers. These volunteers are mostly people who have already retired; people who offer up their time and efforts to alleviate the needs of others, to provide consolation to those who are suffering from the economic crisis in an especially severe way. They do so, moreover, ensuring the scrupulous fulfilment of the criteria on which their activity is based, namely that the service be free of charge, fairly distributed and transparent, while at the same time promoting solidarity and social cohesion.

Those in charge of these organisations dream of the day when food banks will cease to be a social necessity. And on reiterating this dream here, we wish for the greatness of the dream and the lesson of their work to be assumed by one and all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This ceremony honouring the exemplarity to which our Laureates have devoted their lives is coming to an end. Since 1981, the aim of the Foundation has been -as it continues to be today- that the works that most exalt human beings and their noblest feelings be offered up from Asturias to all of Spain, and that the voice of our Laureates should sound out loudly in this theatre as a reference and guide, especially in the times we live.

These are undoubtedly extremely complex and difficult times. But I do not wish to close this ceremony without also affirming that they are times to look to the future with hope and responsibility, times for coexistence.

And in such times, our politicians have the major task of legitimately channelling and addressing the serious problems we are experiencing, especially those arising from the economic crisis. There can be no greater demand for commitment and accountability on the part of public authorities before our citizens. The sacrifices so many Spanish are making, the serious concern and uncertainty of many others regarding their future, further accentuate the duty of all state institutions to serve citizens, to bolster their vitality and confidence, while at all times caring for the general good and staying the course toward their welfare.

Facing adversity also requires a commitment on all parts, a spirit of shared endeavour. We know that pessimism, resignation or despair do not bring us closer to the solution, and I know it is not easy for many to keep their spirits high. Even so, we still need to promote and encourage a social awareness that values all that we have that is positive, that recognises our capabilities and strengths, enhances our self-esteem and helps us to project an image of our country that will ultimately nurture the hopes of all citizens.

The current economic crisis also requires a rigorous reflection as to how the collective spirit can also recover values that have, in recent times, gone astray, but which have never been definitively lost. We have been witness here today to the examples of generosity, integrity, effort and excellence embodied by our Laureates. These are values that dignify people and their works. They are permanent values for our society, because as our 2008 Prince of Asturias Award Laureate Tzvetan Todorov states, "Ethics is the best instrument with which to protect the wealth of nations, their creativity, their peculiarities and their social capital".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although our primary concern is the economic crisis and how to overcome it, we should cease to think also about the Spain we aspire to in this 21st century.

For years now, we have been experiencing profound changes affecting our lifestyle, our economy, and even the political evolution of Europe. We live in a society that speeds up the time and shortens distances, which makes transformation and change the general rule, the norm, and that is leading to a new, more complex scenario for one and all. And we must assume that all this requires a new mindset and new attitudes, new individual and group behaviour. It requires that we look up and broaden our horizons toward the future with an open mind, with courage and ambition to move forward and remain at the fore, ever cultivating, as our Laureate Martha Nussbaum says, the capacity for reflection and critical thought.

Right now, we Spanish face new common goals on which to work together, focusing all our energy so as to take Spain along the path of the 21st century. A century that, more than ever, will be one of knowledge, science and new technologies; one of innovation, communication and creativity; while also the century of a renewed humanism.

These goals entail great challenges in an international context in which we must be aware that, in response to relentless interdependence, the world is increasingly moving towards greater political and economic integration. We shall need more global responses to problems that have long been such. This implies facing enormous challenges that can only be overcome and turned to our advantage if all Spaniards collaborate and pull in the same direction.

We are all well aware of the value of living in harmony in this endeavour. Since 1978 millions of Spaniards have been educated in freedom and democracy. We have learned to express our views and listen and evaluate ideas different from our own. We have also learned to resolve our discrepancies within the framework of the rule of law, something which has required so many sacrifices to achieve.

Throughout these years of democracy, together we have accumulated an extraordinary legacy of freedom, respect and civility, as never before in our history. A legacy that we must cherish, protect and -as in any human endeavour- foster and enhance.

We must thus continue building our future step by step, with one foot planted firmly in the present and determined to overcome discrepancies, preserving sentiments and upholding the feelings we share, forged through our prolonged, shared history. A future based on mutual respect and trust among all Spaniards; one we can work toward in harmonious coexistence, each with their own personality and with the constructive spirit of a common undertaking.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We Spaniards are living a decisive time in our history. We are each called to give the best of ourselves. As Heir to the Throne, I perform my duties with enthusiasm, pride and full confidence in our future; and I strive -as I have always have- to serve the general interests of Spain with a will and all-embracing spirit. It is certainly my obligation, my duty, but also my conviction. This is what I think, what I feel and what I believe in.

Thank you very much.

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