Jump Main Menu. Go directly to the main content (Acces key S)

The Princess of Asturias Foundation

Sección de idiomas

Fin de la sección de idiomas


Sección de utilidades

Fin de la sección de utilidades

  • Síguenos en:
Start of Secondary Menu End of Secondary Menu

You are in:

  1. HM The King |
  2. Speeches


Start of main content

Speech by HRH The Prince of Asturias at the 1996 Prince of Asturias Awards Ceremony

The pro-European feeling of the Spanish peoples, which have been forged through time, and in which Asturias has played its part, finds continuity in our best intellectuals of this century.

Once again, and with renewed emotion and hope, I return to this Principality of Asturias and to this beautiful capital full of common history, in order to preside over the presentation ceremony of the Awards which bear my name.

Spain, from this land which feels it so profoundly, pays homage to personalities who, with their work and sacrifice, dignify the human community, enrich its thought, make it thus freer and urge it on towards new and promising paths. Because the awards take on meaning when they serve as a stimulus and example to all, underlining the effort and dedication of those who deserve and receive them.

And it is to this that this year´s award-winners have dedicated their lives; to working continuously and without faltering, which makes them men who ceaselessly seek out the common good.

Thanks to their presence among us -which has allowed us to listen today to words which are unforgettable because of their sensitivity-, we are experiencing a joyous day which confirms our resolute faith in the human being and his adventure.

I wish to place on record my gratitude to those members of the various Juries on whom it has fallen the arduous task of examining the many and highly outstanding candidatures which were submitted, and granting our Awards.

I know that this has not been an easy undertaking, because it never is to choose the eminent from out of the best, and only their steadfastness in maintaining a sound and independent judgement and their rigorous sense of duty, have allowed them to carry out their task, in perfect harmony with the lofty purposes of the Foundation.

My gratitude increases, if that is possible, when I bear in mind that none of this would be possible without the generosity of the Foundation´s patrons and guardians, among whom I wish to recall with special affection Plácido Arango who, for eight years has so eagerly, generously and efficiently presided over it, following the path started along by his predecessor, the unforgettable Pedro Masaveu. After theirs, the present presidency, entrusted to José Ramón Álvarez Rendueles, is a solid guarantee of continuity.

Loyal to its principals, the Foundation, with the help of its patrons and guardians, the work of its juries, the efficiency of its team of workers, who are always there, even if they are not in the limelight and the prestige of its award-winners, keeps its sights set on a future full of hopes; hopes which evoke those of Don Quijote when he set out at dawn, full of joy, towards the boundless horizons of Spain.

Before moving on to talk about each one of the award-winners and in light of late-breaking news, allow me to express my deep sorrow for the death of three Spanish missionaries in the Great Lakes region of Africa who have lost their lives carrying out an exemplary, extremely worthwhile humanitarian endeavour.

It is our hope and fervent desire that the international community will rapidly take the measures needed to alleviate this tragedy that has greatly affected us all and which so severely wounds basic human rights and dignity.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities has been granted to two exceptional personalities, Indro Montanelli and Julián Marías who, with wonderful lucidity, make the Biblical command shine: "Do your duty, pay heed to it, grow old in your task".

Both of them are exemplary representatives of the best virtues of journalistic and humanistic communication: the love of truth, the tenacious effort to shun routine and superficiality, the urge for independence, and all of this even at the cost of many sacrifices and much lack of understanding. We find ourselves before two men who are admirable models of intellectual altruism and moral strength, two men who have experienced in the flesh, with painful frequency, the idea that the destiny of innovative and incorruptible beings is solitude.

Indro Montanelli is a key figure in the European journalism of our century, both as collaborator or reporter, and exercising the highest responsibilities at the head of media companies. Passionately, intelligently and with great doses of integrity and courage, Montanelli has, for nearly half a century, represented the independent voice, the voice opposed to allowing itself to be swept along by currents or ephemeral fashions, sometimes even in highly difficult situations for his country.

In times of confusion and uncertainty, many Europeans have felt themselves guided by Montanelli´s posture, by his penetrating analysis of reality and his shrewd warnings against self-seeking deceptions and mistakes.

Perhaps the profoundness of his convictions and the ardour with which he has always defended them, come from his deep love of History which, as Cicero said, is "the witness of the ages, the light of truth, the life of memory, the master of life, the herald of antiquity". For this reason Montanelli can tell us which were the ultimate causes of what we did and what it is that we should never repeat.

The award to Julián Marías only minimally rewards his innumerable merits. A disciple of Ortega y Gasset, to whom he has dedicated many illuminating pages, he has always developed his thought along a neat intellectual path.

His works, born of an insatiable curiosity, have embraced different aspects of human activity, from Anthropology to History, from literary essays to the dense paths of metaphysics. In any case, Julián Marías has provided renovative perspectives on man and his place in society, always convinced that Philosophy, which must be at the service of life, is the discipline which places man at the summit of creation.

Marías has rendered intelligible the grand singularity of Spanish History, a close and inseparable area of cohabitance, whilst reclaiming the essential need to preserve and reinforce our ties with America. He also has frequent reflections on the process of European union, on its enlightenment and darkness.

A good part of his thought has seen the light in the form of articles in the press, in such a way that, for most of his readers, his ever-clear ideas, always explained nobly and simply, have constituted a constant aid and inestimable intellectual and ethical example.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Letters is already in the hands of Francisco Umbral. There can be few cases such as his of the "pure" writer, in whom life and literary creation become confused. He shows us, with the devastating clarity of the great creators, the importance of literature in modelling our vision of the world and of man and in collaborating decisively in the education of human sensitivity, one of the keys to authentic progress.

Umbral is an artist of the word, who appears day after day in newspaper pages to offer us his point of view on the news, wrapped up in an extraordinary verbal ingenuity.

With writing which is at the same time both cutting and tender, he can caress our consciences with his word and he can lash them, as a whip; he can, and he knows how to, rise to the summit of poetic feeling or penetrate at a brazen pace, the most recondite corners of vocabulary.

Francisco Umbral´s journalistic work is only a part of his copious work, which offers us novels of a desolate and lyrical intensity, harsh portraits of the underworld of Madrid or new national episodes which, whilst still being local literature, illuminate Spain´s recent history with lightening intuitions.

The Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts this year recognises in the Valencian Joaquín Rodrigo, a work which is a paradigm of all that is artistic. This magnificent composer, whose figure honours our land and who is represented in this ceremony by his daughter due to the delicate state of his health, unites with originality and elegance that which is popular with the cult, the traditional and that which is new.

To pronounce his name is to invoke music in its pure state. Millions of people all over the world have felt themselves tremble as they allow themselves to be rocked by the chords of Joaquín Rodrigo´s music, which reaches degrees of sublime perfection and awakes inside us melodies which not only extend the tradition of the Spanish musical genius, but which are also the result of a fresh and intense originality.

Enshrined by the immortal Concierto de Aranjuez, in each of his pieces of work, Rodrigo expresses the profundity of being Spanish with an unmistakable lyricism. He is the ambassador of Spanish music transposed to the guitar, an essentially Spanish instrument, which he has managed to endow with a new face turned directed at concert halls. Guitarists look to him with veneration, as it is through him that they have achieved glory and the applause of all audiences. Young compositors also follow his example, because Joaquín Rodrigo has earned fame without ever failing to be rigorous and honourable, two principles which shape the authority of the great creators.

This year the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences has been granted to the British historian, Sir John Elliott. Few scholars have managed to come close to our past, as has this distinguished authority, and especially to that of Spain in the XVI and XVII centuries. He has told us that, whilst still almost an adolescent, contemplating some of the scenes of the pictures in the Museo del Prado he even then caught a glimpse of what Unamuno called the "intrahistory" of our country.

Since then, his research, extended in his professorship at the University of Oxford, has done but tried to explain Spanish History, its crucial problems, which needed new light and rigorous interpretation. Because there are few tasks so delicate as that of a historian, who must boldly maintain an objective ideal and not let himself be carried away by his personal opinions or beliefs when analysing past events. Here is the greatness of this science, and that is why it is so important that the nations cultivate it, transmit it from generation to generation as the most valuable part of its heritage and teach it from the stance of truth.

One of the main contributions of John Elliott is that with his profound analyses he has helped to shatter stereotyped and clichéd visions of our history.

Elliott belongs to that brilliant group of Spanish scholars who study Spain because they love it, and they themselves have seen how their love grows together with the knowledge of the loved object.

Valentín Fuster, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, is an admirable example of a life fully given over to helping the human being in his efforts to surpass the limits which nature has set out. His work is not only proof of his personal worth but also embodies the worth of science when it is dedicated to improving man´s existence.

For many years pledged to a persistent struggle against coronary diseases, this Catalonian doctor has studied, without once giving in to despondency or fatigue, one of the most terrible ailments which has afflicted modern man.

Starting from his conviction that clinical efforts are not enough to advance rigorously if they are not accompanied by basic research, Valentín Fuster has managed to attend to both these fronts and harmonise his results, whilst proving his extraordinary scientific training and his exceptional organisational capacity, heading work in large and highly specialised teams.

Symbolised in him we see other Spanish scientists who were obliged to emigrate in search of better means to carry out their task, eager, in many cases, to return and become integrated in our research community.

A great poet from his native Catalonia, Salvador Espriu, sang of the melancholy of the human being and his life with these lines:

There are no wakes left in the water, no sign of the boat, of man, of his passage.

But not all is lost and forgotten. Great men, as this same poet shows us, live on forever in the mind.

And Valentín Fuster shall leave behind an indelible mark in the catalogue of distinguished researchers of Spanish science headed by Ramón y Cajal and Severo Ochoa, milestones in human culture and a permanent stimulus for our young people.

The progress of man is inseparable from his struggle to excel himself, and sport is a specific manifestation of this aspiration. This is the sense of granting the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports to the North American athlete Carl Lewis.

Within him, that determination to excel oneself and to excel over others in fair combat is exceptionally enhanced. His victories, proven by nine gold medals in four Olympic Games and nearly as many again in world championships, make him a sportsman who will not be easily forgotten by future generations, to whom he also leaves his example of his combat against drugs, which impoverish and degrade so many lives, especially in young people and against which it is necessary to fight tirelessly.

Carl Lewis´ vigorous career is the fruit of his personal faculties, but it is also the result of persistent exertion in his preparation and of exemplary and admirable discipline, all of which are virtues which, as in Classical Greece, are triumphant at the end of every one of his competitions.

The exertion, the well-deserved triumphs and the medals attained by Carl Lewis should not hide from us what is really important, what shines out from behind every career which reaches giddy heights, every incredible jump, every brilliant demonstration of bodily control: the lesson of sacrifice, of the desire for physical and moral perfection which should form the basis and the enduring example of all sportsmen.

We Spaniards experienced in the mid sixties a delicate and fundamental political transition process which brought with it a profound social transformation. It was necessary to combine harmoniously, without tensions or violence, two different periods in time in order to ensure a peaceful cohabitance on the road towards democracy. It was necessary to overcome the differences of the past and neutralise old apprehensions in order to open up a future full of shared hopes.

A task of this kind demanded an effort towards reconciliation. A decisive contribution towards this was made by a man gifted with flexibility, the desire for dialogue and understanding, love of liberty, respect for the ideas of others, great courage and not a small amount of persuasive capacity. We needed someone who, as well as possessing all of these infrequent virtues, could pledge his life to the task. This was the work of Adolfo Suárez, who today has received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.

By guiding the Spanish people´s yearning for freedom, with the generous and enthusiastic collaboration of other persons and political groups and with the decided encouragement of the Crown, Adolfo Suárez made possible what many political essayists, on the basis of their knowledge of Spain and of the experience of other countries, had considered impossible. He succeeded in uniting wills which seemed to be opposed, he directed, without violence, the latent energies of a society towards tolerance and dialogue, he closed distances and wounds and, in short, carried out from his Government the great mission of returning Spain to the Spaniards through the establishment of democracy, the form of government which Goethe considered to be the best, "the one which teaches us to govern ourselves".

Those who had a principal role in the transition, and most particularly, Adolfo Suárez, lived through the unique experience of rewriting their own History, freeing it from ghosts of the past and opening up a horizon of hope.

We Spaniards who live in reclaimed freedom can say of that generation that thanks to their yesterday there exists for us a peaceful today and also a tomorrow full of hope.

Few political personalities of our time are so closely united to the new concept of Europe as the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, the Prince of Asturias Award winner for International Co-operation. His untiring labour in favour of the European Union, his profound interest in providing his country with a new political and economic dimension and his intelligent contribution towards the difficult task of reunifying Germany make him an essential reference point in this historic process.

In you, Mister Chancellor, we salute someone who has dedicated, and keeps on dedicating, so much effort towards a new Europe, the heir of Charlemagne and Charles V, who loves his roots and traditions, who extracts from its linguistic and cultural diversity and from the incomparable treasure of its artistic expressions, the energy necessary to construct a common home and a meeting place which leads us to skip over barriers and the inertia of the clichés which have so often separated us.

Europe is a conviction in which we share and a hope for which we work. To make it reality is an honourable task, to which your example, Mister Chancellor, invites and stimulates us.

The pro-European feeling of the Spanish peoples, which have been forged through time, and in which Asturias has played its part, finds continuity in our best intellectuals of this century. They all think and write about a Europe united in its diversity, respectful of plurality of the elements which form it and close to the real worries of its citizens about life. Some ideas, Mister Chancellor, which have many points in common with those that you defend.

The Astur kingdom moreover enriched its perspective, way back in its beginnings, with European accents, as is shown by its relations with the Carolingian empire. It was also its monarchs who promoted the cult of the sepulchre of Santiago, whose name is borne by the Road which germinated the most ancient ties of solidarity between the nations of our Continent.

Asturias, which feels proud of its participation in this adventure from its start, when it planted its shield under the protection of the Picos de Europa and the mountain of Covadonga in defence of the values in whose shade we still take refuge today, hopes to find the solution through its own effort and with the support, solidarity and understanding of everybody to the problems that the new times present, as it has done throughout History. On this path Asturias will always count on my encouragement and my constant enthusiasm.

Salvador de Madariaga, who was European by vocation and practice, defined with wise and beautiful words the essence of Europe and the sense of the common path of its nations:

"Europe -he wrote- is born of the confluence of two great traditions: the Socratic, which demands freedom of speech, and the Christian, which demands respect for the individual (...) Europe is not just a common market; it is also and above all a common faith in the worth of man and of liberty".

Thank you very much.

End of main content

Sección de utilidades

Fin de la sección de utilidades