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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Speech by HRH the Prince of Asturias during the ceremony at the 1998 Prince of Asturias Awards

In America I have once again confirmed, with joy and a sense of pride, the existence of a popular and cultural sensitivity that is deeply rooted in Spain, and should serve our country as a complement and a stimulus. A stimulus in the sense that we must assume their difficulties as our own, and help them to overcome their problems in the context of international co-operation.

Moved and full of gratitude, I return to this renovated Campoamor Theatre, so full of precious memories for all of us, in order to present the Awards that bear my name. It is with anticipation that I come to Oviedo, and with my presence in this solemn ceremony we celebrate the fruits of a year´s worth of effort, sensitive work, intelligence put to use in the search for the exemplary, ideas that guide and strengthen our consciences.

Encouraging these objectives, furthering the expansion of culture in the broadest sense of this word, and developing the spirit of concord, are priority tasks of our Foundation. Its work deserves the acknowledgement that I wish to express here to its trustees, supporters, and collaborators, as well as to the Juries for their admirable and increasingly difficult task of making pronouncements regarding the recipients of the different honours. Without all of them this project would not be possible.

Year after year, just as the old oaks of Asturias renew their leaves and become stronger, our Awards renew their well-earned prestige and bring us together under the canopy of universal values that strengthen our humanistic vocation. These are symbols of a world without frontiers for culture, freedom, and concord, and committed to this way of feeling and believing are our award-winners, who are a credit to their countries and a credit to all of us, humanity as a whole. I congratulate them for it and thank them for their presence here today.

Several of the Awards that we have just presented have a direct connection with Europe, with which, throughout its millenary history, Spain has fostered endless relations, and with which we are building our future today. Some of these relations are remembered this year in particular because of the celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary of Felipe II, a king as mythicised by some as he was misunderstood and denigrated by others.

In the idea of combining all that is European with all that is ours and closer to home, we also commemorate here today a learned, enterprising figure that was both a reformer and a Europeanist: Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, who we especially remember this year.

The intellectual inquisitiveness and the refined spirit of this native of Gijón, the love for his land, Asturias, and for all lands, his great desire for knowledge and his sensitivity, shine for evermore. His life and work ought to be the best antidote in the fight against this tendency toward pessimism that sometimes inexplicably overwhelms us. His example should also be a stimulus and a beacon for all of us as long as there is an unsolved problem among us or an injustice in need of elimination. Although he was so Spanish, his vocation for the cultures of Europe was in no way foreign to his way of thinking.

This reappraisal of culture in the coming together of all things Spanish with all things European is exemplified in our time by the work of Reinhard Mohn, Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities.

This German entrepreneur, creator of the Bertelsmann media group and president of the Foundation of the same name, has dedicated his life to fostering the means that broaden the horizons of mankind, and he has done so in a career built upon promoting reading and a commitment to new information and cultural technologies. A prosperous career of which Spain is a privileged witness.

In keeping with his deepest convictions, he keeps faith in a dialogue of critique and co-operation as cornerstones of progress, doing so out of the need to look beyond outmoded ideas and customs. Thus, for example, he asserts that in today´s world we cannot envisage companies driven primarily or exclusively by the pursuit of the greatest possible profit. From this springs a need to create management models in consonance with the concept of personal development, participation, and well-being of employees, harmonising the manifold interests of the entrepreneurial world.

He regards his work as being directed toward serving others; challenges must be overcome without losing heart ? all of which fits together in an often-expressed idea of his: ?cultural must be promoted if living in peace is what we want?.

Photography, which has acquired such great importance in today´s world of communication, and which was for so long considered as painting´s poorer relative, is also, for those who feel its calling or participate as spectators, a true art, and by no means a minor one.

For this reason it is only right that the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts is awarded, for the first time, to a photographer: the Brazilian Sebastião Salgado.

His camera captures and holds fast the patina of time with aesthetic perfection and deep sensitivity, and presents us with a beautiful blue planet that is lacerated by injustice. In this way he makes us more aware of reality and increases our feeling of human solidarity with humble peasants, miners, sailors, children, and old people of the most forgotten races and peoples and from the most diverse countries, which are portrayed in his photographs.

Sebastião Salgado has made a homeland out of the entire world. His expressive silence has the strength of authenticity, and manages to transform what he humbly calls ?social photography? into heart-rending poetry that moves and cries out to us.

In that endless adventure to discover the secrets of Creation, Physics plays a particularly important role today, because of technological needs and spectacular industrial development, which needs to delve further into research about the non-visible world, the elementary particles in which life is rooted, if it is to continue advancing.

Focused on one of these so-called ?building blocks of the universe?, the electron, which is the basis for many advances we enjoy today, is the work of two important Spanish physicists, Pedro Miguel Etxenike- Landiríbar, professor of Condensed Matter Physics at the Universidad del País Vasco, and Emilio Méndez Pérez, professor of the same subject at the University of New York.

The capacity for work of these two scientists, and the enthusiasm with which they apply themselves to their careers each day, inspires admiration for their intellectual curiosity, whose results have practical applications for actual progress, and eloquently express the indispensable interplay between basic and applied science.

We join in their concern for the need to improve aid programmes for research and to encourage society to put its best resources toward backing the talents that venture out onto the paths of creativity and innovation.

This is especially true for our younger scientists, with their rigorous training and growing prestige, who guarantee our future in an increasingly specialised and competitive world, since, as Jovellanos said, ?only the peoples who study nature can be free, and, by looking out at the world, they become wiser and more prosperous?.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Letters has been awarded this year to the writer Francisco Ayala, for his liberal and critical spirit, his independence and his sure mastery, his attempts to delve deeper into the human condition and his love of freedom, all of which he has generously moulded into innumerable essays, works of fiction, articles, and memoirs.

Standing out in Ayala´s valuable work is his lucid personality, restless and young in spite of an admirable maturity, and covering such varied topics as exile and the cinema, Don Quixote and the social sciences, dreams and technology, up-to-the-minute journalism and timeless reflections ? and his ever-present personal and subtle vision of Spain and the Spanish.

We also find in his work a rare balance between tradition and modernity, a felicitous harmony between history and progress. This may be the result of his wanderlust, of his contacts with the universities and cultural milieus of America, where he has been a truly exceptional ambassador of Spain.

Or perhaps it is the outcome of what he himself elegantly calls life´s ?squalls?, for Francisco Ayala also represents the Spain of exile, which teaches us the lesson of having been able to prolong ? in spite of suffering the heartbreak of fraternal conflict ? those intellectual ambitions of the ?Age of Silver? of our culture, which at the beginning of the 30s endeavoured to serve Spain from the viewpoint of culture rather than ignorance, equity rather than political extremism, and reason rather than lack of understanding. We are striving to overcome some of the miseries of that period in this chapter of our history that we are building today, this time doing as one.

This year´s Prince of Asturias Award for the Social Sciences has been awarded to Pierre Werner and Jacques Santer. The former set the foundations for, and boldly paved the way toward, monetary union. The latter has formalised and consummated the reality of the Euro, from his position as President of the European Commission. Both are firm believers in Europe who have worked hard to strengthen the links between the different countries and have always advocated perfecting the Community and, in a word, our future. It is through them that we also acknowledge a good number of distinguished Europeans whose efforts have been decisive in the success of this collective project. This process involves moving towards a mutually linked and irreversible Community for the countries of the European Union and their citizens. It is also, after centuries of dissent and war, a wager for freedom in diversity, now that we have been made stronger through unity; a wager, in short, for peace. Economic change will mean that the single currency will also have deep political and social repercussions that will profoundly affect the daily life of Europeans. We face a great moment in the history of Humanity, since a strong Europe is not only good for Europeans. It is also good for the world. This new Europe cannot be built from the perspective of economic and commercial relations alone. The sustenance for the European spirit must also be solidarity, so as to take on unemployment, humanitarian aid, co-operation with the most underdeveloped countries, democratisation of supranational political institutions, and common culture ? this pluralistic culture that is in turn made up of so many rich national cultures. At the same time, our continent must maintain the fundamental character that has made it stand out from among other peoples: its condition as a privileged space for cultural activity. We want Europe to continue to be the source of the mightiest expressions of human creativity, a land of painters and writers, scientists and philosophers, musicians and architects ? beings who search for progress and welfare without renouncing that humanism of vigorous Christian roots, ever-illumined by the eternal flame of freedom of thought. To strengthen these foundations is particularly important at the present time, when the globalising power of economic conditions and impregnates our lifestyles and attitudes.

The Award for International Co-operation has many names this year; the names of seven extraordinary women who are fighting to defend women´s and children´s rights, and against the violence and discrimination that they are victims of in different parts of the world. Their efforts, which should unite us all, brings to mind that beautiful metaphor of an Indian writer: ?The lantern I carry in my hand protects me against the darkness of the road ahead?.

Let us remember their names: the Mozambican Graça Machel; the Algerian Fatiha Boudiaf; our Guatemalan sister Rigoberta Menchú; Olayinka Koso- Thomas, from Sierra Leone; Afghan Ishaq Gailani; the Cambodian Somaly Mam; and the European who is closest to us, the Italian Emma Bonino.

All of them struggle on many fronts against the fanaticism and prejudice that, even in our century, continue to turn children into soldiers in wars that are not theirs; harm women to the very core of their being and strip them of their dignity; force refugees into an endless exodus; violate human rights and basic liberties; kill humble innocents without reason or purpose; or confine their fellow citizens, simply for being women, to a veritable prison of degrading ancestral customs. In spite of these misfortunes, these women have shown us that it is possible to live with dignity, amid the worst circumstances, and that it is possible to ?breech the walls of deprivation, persecution, and hatred?.

But these women are also fighting against our indifference ? the indifference of educated and prosperous countries that are momentarily moved by images of cruelty, which they hardly find time to discuss in their daily conversations. Let this award also be an incentive and a stimulus that leads us away from this indifference.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Concord has been awarded this year to four champions of the eradication of poverty: the missionary bishop Monsignor Nicolás Castellanos; the co-operative worker Vicente Ferrer; Dr. Joaquín Sanz-Gadea; and the economist Muhammad Yunus.

They all share a single, unmistakable vocation, which they develop on several fronts: the fields of religion, health, education, social work, agriculture, urban planning and assistance. Through their good example these men try to create a new world out of virtually nothing.

A world that revolves around a single concept: that of individual human dignity, which must daily and irrevocably accompany each person, their families, their work, and their small group or community. This is the field that our award-winners have sowed with their life´s work, and where they have obtained excellent fruits that contradict many deep-seated prejudices of our world.

Our award-winners invite us to continue believing in the noblest values of humanity, because, as one of them has pointed out, without unity among persons, without shared passion ? that is to say, without compassion ? humanity would have no reason to exist.

The dispossessed of father Castellanos´s urban areas, the peasants of Vicente Ferrer, the African lepers of Sanz-Gadea, and the members of Yunus´s ?Bank of the Poor? now know that they are not alone.

The life of Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, our athlete honoured this year, is at present a story of dreams come true, since she has achieved one of the highest levels of her profession, tennis. She is the youngest female champion Spain has had in her speciality since she won the National Championship in 1985. Soon after that she would embark upon a path that has been marked by brilliant appearances in almost one hundred major competitions. She is also the Spanish athlete with the most Olympic medals, and has won four ?Grand Slam? tournaments.

Sport is a human activity that is defined to a great extent by the desire to win. Athletes compete in the hope of winning, reaching farther and higher, and being the best. This legitimate desire is coupled with other virtues that define sportsmanship and characterise the behaviour of the greatest athletes of all time: women and men who, through self-restraint, self-sacrifice, tenacity, and discipline, are always ready and willing to show generosity and to honour their fellow competitors.

These are the virtues that the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports wishes to emphasise and are, without a doubt, the virtues displayed by Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Her struggle to the point of exhaustion and the joys of her victories have provided us with unforgettable moments of emotion. She shows us that we must not falter in the task we have set ourselves, that there is nothing like the satisfaction of having done one´s duty.

These virtues also serve, first and foremost, as a prominent example for our youth. Young people must see her as a source of encouragement that helps them to achieve greater goals in life.

In addition, her initiative of creating a foundation for the promotion of up-and-coming tennis players underscores her humanity and highlights the brilliance of her sporting career, for it is certainly true that glory would not be deserved if the successes achieved at ground level were not uplifted by the virtues of intelligence and a generosity that comes straight from the heart.

And on the subject of generosity, I would like to take this opportunity to recall a great athlete and a great Spaniard, who for many years represented us in an outstanding way on the International Olympic Committee; and who, as President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, sat on our Juries on many occasions. I am referring to Carlos Ferrer Salat, whose recent demise has filled us with sadness.

Up to this point we have been highlighting each individual Award, but if it were possible to reduce such distinct personalities as this year´s award-winners down to a common denominator, I would say that what stands out in all of them is their ambition to make lasting things render a service to others.

With effort, and in some cases with violence ? not the violence that harms, but the violence that is needed to set the foundations of a solid construction ? these people have opened the doors of a world we need and desire, a world that is committed to a great task: that of creating and preserving indestructible links between human beings and peoples, and of sharing in order to improve.

Allow me, at this point, and before I finish, to briefly recall the trips I have made in recent months through Spain and our sister nations on the other side of the Atlantic ? especially in order to express my gratitude for the generosity and affection I am met with in the places I visit. From all these places I have come away enriched with the firsthand, global vision of the concerns, problems, and hopes of their peoples, and I have had the opportunity to look more and more profoundly into the realities of our times. It has been written that to travel is to win the battle against routine, and that travelling with one´s eyes open is the best remedy against intolerance, lack of understanding, and self-complacency, which are among the great evils of any age.

In America I have once again confirmed, with joy and a sense of pride, the existence of a popular and cultural sensitivity that is deeply rooted in Spain, and should serve our country as a complement and a stimulus. A stimulus in the sense that we must assume their difficulties as our own, and help them to overcome their problems in the context of international co-operation.

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