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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 1999 Prince of Asturias Awards

We would emphasise that once again the Prince of Asturias Awards acknowledge all that is exceptional, (that is), the highest and most ejemplary qualities available to man to fulfil his aspirations and achieve the ideal model of a society that is more just, and displays greater culture, progress and concord.

Committed as I am to what this solemn ceremony represents, I come back to Asturias with the feelings of one who returns to a dearly-loved place, to a felicitous meeting with those who search for higher principles and ideals that will make us grow in stature and which we can serve. I come to join the award-winners and to extol their virtues. They have fulfilled a great, and noble task - and even though it remains open to new conquests - they deserve, in the words of our unforgettable Claudio Rodríguez, «to look at the sky, their town, their home, their family and their work in peace.»

I wish to congratulate them in these opening words and to proclaim how much their example strengthens our faith in the human race, which may well stumble and fall, but which is capable of overcoming adversity, of rising above error, misery and misfortune.

I also wish to extend my congratulations to the members of the Jury. Their impartiality, their intellectual rigour, the independence of criteria and the well-balanced nature characteristic of their work constitute one of the key factors in the wide impact and success of our awards. I would also like to express my gratitude once again to the patrons, trustees and to everybody who contributes to the development of the Foundation and the furthering of its work. Their unstinting commitment and, above all, their faith and enthusiasm for our project is a guarantee of the present and future success of our awards.

The major cultural and scientific institutions from other countries who have been willing to accentuate this act of concord, culture and progress with their presence here deserve special mention and thanks.

In reference to our award winners we shall begin with that marvellous tool of communication, with what is undoubtedly mankind?s greatest invention, with what should always unite us: Language. The study, understanding and caring for it are tasks that become one of the most sublime expressions of culture, a subtle, exact way of coming closer to the essence of mankind and of understanding the meaning of life. This is why promoting language studies is in itself a way of promoting the study of mankind, a constant attempt to open new horizons, to create clear pathways to mutual understanding between all peoples.

We can never stress enough, therefore, the importance of our language for both the peoples of Spain and our sister nations over the Atlantic. It is the legacy that we receive and transmit. The word - something that looks so small and seems so easy to use - thus becomes an instrument that conditions each and every one of our acts, the ideal medium for expressing our feelings, the historic and emotional link that brings us together, overcoming the barriers of time and place.

For this reason we are very pleased that the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities has been bestowed on the Instituto Caro y Cuervo de Colombia. With its Dictionary of the Construction and Rules of the Castillian Language - so patiently drawn up and so long in the making - it has produced an exemplary, magnificent work. It is, in the words of Gabriel García Má?rquez, «the great novel of words. Just the examples of language use would be sufficient to justify considering it as a colossal overview of literature in Spanish applied to life, unprecedented in any other language».

Further tasks undertaken by the Instituto Caro y Cuervo are no less breathtaking. Witness in this respect, the Linguistic and Ethnographic Atlas of Colombia, or having maintained for over fifty years a Boletín where much of the finest research into Spanish and the indigenous American languages - the study of which had already interested many Spanish missionaries during the early years of the Discovery - has been published. This is a tradition we are proud to share because, as has already been said, the death of a language - even one that is only spoken by a handful of people in some lost, forgotten land - is a collective loss, is the death of a world.

I am particularly grateful for the attendance of President Andrés Pastrana of Columbia at this ceremony, thereby emphasising how much his people admire the work carried out by the Instituto Caro y Cuervo. I wish to express to you that in Spain we suffer for the obstacles placed in the way of a promising peace process that has begun there as if they were our own; we pray that the process is crowned by success as soon as possible.

For the second time, The Jury has rewarded Britain?s fertile hispanicism in the figure of the historian Sir Raymond Carr, who has been given the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences.

Objectivity, scientific rigour and an all-encompassing vision are some of the virtues that grace the life and work of this professor at the University of Oxford and member of the Royal British Academy. As his colleague and fellow Prince of Asturias award-winner, has said of him, Professor Carr has made a major contribution to our knowledge of the history of 19th. And 20th century Spain.

The next generation of historians, both in Spain and abroad, has benefited from the paths forward that he has opened up. His book on Spain between 1808 and 1939 and later published works has provided history with an innovative vision of contemporary Spain, placing it within a European context. He has contributed in this way to a better understanding both of the 1936 Civil War and the transition towards democracy.

Beside his published works, which in themselves are proof of an extraordinarily gifted historian, one must stress the impetus he gave to updating Spanish historiography from his teaching post as head of St. Anthony?s College at the University of Oxford. During this period the College became a brilliant intellectual centre for the study of Spain and the Spanish world. Spanish and Spanish-American students who would later participate directly in political and cultural change in their respective countries were trained there. The intellectual stimulation fostered there by Professor Carr was indispensable to the success of such a creative and ever-influential task.

The Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava has won the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts. His original interpretation of volumes, the use of new materials and techniques, and the search for a youthful, innovative sense of aesthetics, alongside his enormous international prestige, have undoubtedly been determining factors for the jury to decide in favour of his candidature. Imagination and obvious creativity are also unmistakable hallmarks of an architecture that is both so Spanish and so spectacular.

His works share peculiarities and virtues of other art forms and fields of knowledge. This interaction is seen in the brilliant combination of architecture, engineering, sculpture, design or philosophy, that make his work a lasting expression of contemporary utility and aesthetics. Santiago Calatrava has managed to combine exercising his profession with teaching theory at the Institute of Construction Statics of Zurich. The idea of the Renascent masters for whom wisdom was the child of experience and of a love for work well done takes on modern-day relevance in the energy and versatility that he has imbued his work with.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Letters has been bestowed upon the German writer Günter Grass, who we all also congratulate for his recent Nobel prize for Letters Award. As the creator of new literary worlds, Gross is the author of some of the most significant novels to be written in the latter half of this century. In these novels, which often become metaphors and parables of modern society, the force and expressiveness of his prose scales the greatest heights. This is why he is recognised as one of those most actively involved in renovating the German language.

Narrator of his times, moral authority for many, social critic, civic objector, intellectual swimming against the tide and committed writer are some of the hallmarks of a writer who has no wish to live in a somnolent age or society, a society where there are no solutions to the problems that others prefer to cover up, ignore or simply not solve. This stance reminds us of what the great Portuguese poet Miguel Torga wrote: «a poet?s voice may have no owner if it wishes to work for the truth. Once subjugated, it loses all the charm, prestige and dynamism that makes it desirable, convincing and redemptive».

Günter Gras thus combats the most serious contemporary errors: totalitarian ostracising nationalism, blind, headlong «progress», trauma-producing technologies, the oppression of the weak, attacks on the environment, abuse of power, and basically anything that violates what we recognise as the essential aspirations of mankind.

We need, and will continue to need, critical, independent intellectuals like Gúnter Grass who denounce the extremes of unforeseeable consequences that society may go to when dazzled only by the blinding light of material progress.

The continual progress of scientific and technical research and its discoveries fills the world that we live in with enormous hope. We are pleased, therefore, that the award for Technical and Scientific Research has gone to two great men who have achieved enormously important breakthroughs in the field: the Spanish surgeon Enrique Moreno and the Mexican neuro-scientist, Ricardo Miledi.

Professor Moreno is head of department of Surgical Pathology, a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine, and a world authority in the field of transplants; he is, to be more precise, a pioneer in liver transplants and in surgery for gastrointestinal, pancreatic and liver conditions. In view of their importance and seriousness, we rejoice above all in the progress that has been made in detecting and treating these conditions.

We share with him the hope for a rise in the number of patients who are cured by surgery, the future of which is ensured by the continual technical improvements and the increase in organ donations. It is a well known fact that Spain now has the highest rate of organ donation in the world, which is an honour for us and something we are proud of.

Ricardo Miledi is a researcher at the Universities of California and the Autononous University of Mexico, and many of his discoveries, especially those related to the mechanisms of nerve-cell contact, are now considered classic by the world of Science, as indeed are those he has made about the response to and effect of drugs and toxic substances on the nervous system.

We feel that his idea that neurone communication is «at the heart of all the brain?s functions, such as thinking and loving» is very revealing. It creates a useful, emotionally inspiring link between scientific advancement and human behaviour, which is fortunately being further investigated and better understood from one day to the next. Solutions are thus being found for many mental illnesses, and in consequence, medical science is imbued with the humanism that has always been its hallmark and which has today, in our award-winners, two of its finest representatives in the world.

The award to Ricardo Miledi provides me with the opportunity of sending a special message of regards to Mexico, a dearly-beloved country to us.. The heavy flooding that has recently occurred there has left hundreds of dead and thousands of victims in its painful wake, as well as incalculable material damage. We feel wholeheartedly for the suffering of the Mexican people, and are confident and hopeful of a rapid recovery from the damage brought about by the disaster. We do not forget here in Spain the debt of gratitude we have towards the Mexican people, who with great generosity and affection, gave refuge to the emigrants and exiles of the civil war; such hospitality brought about productive cultural exchange that should never be allowed to run dry.

The Prince of Asturias Award for International Co-operation has been given to four astronauts of different nationalities: Chiaki Mukai from Japan, Pedro Duque from Spain, John Glenn from America, and Valery Polyakov from Russia, who is the person who has spent the longest period of time in space.

Polyakov and Glenn, given their ages, represent maturity and experience. Mukai and Duque, given theirs, represent the hopes and tenacity of youth. All four of them demonstrate to us that mankind, in the major undertakings of Humanity, is valued above all for his willpower and his lofty aspirations.

This prize is so meaningful because it coincides so precisely with its name and description - that long-awaited co-operation between the different peoples of the planet that our award-winners have always desired. This is so because Spain and the European Community as a whole are present, in the figure of our very own Pedro Duque; because astronaut Polyakov once again reminds us both of the enormous advantages of peaceful co-operation and of the futility of confrontation between peoples, and because - coming as they do from two different continents - Mukai and Glenn add a universal perspective to the conquest of outer space; the Japanese astronaut by her contribution to the progress of space medicine, and Glenn by consolidating with his experience that pioneering nature that his country has long demonstrated in its ventures into space.

All of them, after great sacrifice and with great risk to their lives, have travelled far away from our planet, only to be closer to it, only to watch over and safeguard its progress, only to ennoble Science. They have been able to see our beautiful, blue planet almost in miniature from their spacecraft; at the same time, they have seen it spectacularly united under its biosphere.

No doubt each of them have pondered on what brings mankind together and what forces him apart, on the incomprehensible, sterile hatreds among men, on the invisible borderlines drawn up to separate nations, on the confrontation between different peoples of a planet that is so prodigious, so teeming with life, and so beautiful. The effort and tenacity of each of them provides us with a number of examples which , as a single unit, we point to here today with admiration: their outstanding professionalism, their fraternal joint work, the peaceful nature of their project, their wish to disseminate and share their experience and, in short, the high ideals of their work for the benefit of Science, and thus, of the Human race as a whole.

One of the principles that our Foundation follows - that of contributing to society?s moral awareness-raising - is fulfilled in exemplary fashion this year by the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, bestowed on Cá?ritas Española.

No work is as indispensable and as noble as work for the most needy: the elderly, the homeless, immigrants, drug-dependants, Aids victims, the handicapped, the prison population, the socially ostracised in general, groups at difficult moments in their youth, in their infancy, in their family, and women. Faced with such special, outstanding work, we wish to stress here that charity and justice are not opposing concepts that cancel each other out, but quite the opposite; as was pointed out by the president of Cá?ritas Española when given the award, the meaning of the word «charity» is in no way synonymous of «a hand-out» or of «benefits»; it is rather a synonym of the word «love». For this reason it could be said that Cá?ritas is like « a love which never fails you», because of the fine example that its seventy-five thousand volunteers set, because of the work carried out in its network of five thousand Cá?ritas parish groups, three thousand five hundred and seventy- five centres and seven thousand reception points, all established thanks to the hearts of tens of thousands of contributors who, moved by generosity and with great tenacity, dream of creating a better world, a fairer, more fraternal world, and of getting mankind, in the words left to us by Albert Camus, «to feel once more the love for fellow man without which the world would be an immense solitude.»

Once more, youth and effort that borders on the limits come together in exemplary fashion in the award for the best sports persons in the world. This is why the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports has been bestowed on the German tennis player, Steffi Graf. It has been awarded to her for her career in sport, but also for her human qualities, for an aspiring to the common good that goes beyond her strictly professional work and which has recently taken on a tangible form in the opening of a foundation to help children and young victims of violence and exploitation, with special attention paid towards those suffering the consequences of war.

It is difficult to synthesise the many merits of Steffi Graf?s career in sport. Outstanding are the twenty-two Grand Slam tournament victories, the 377 weeks as leader of the professional tennis players ranking, and being the youngest Roland Garros winner.

But once more when faced with any outstanding professional work, when faced with any youthful, brilliant triumph, we would point out that the person achieving such success would be nothing if he or she did not possess other human values. Thus the criteria of the great athletes of the past, who valued being an all-round human being more than the crowns and statues to celebrate their victories, takes on new meaning and relevance.

Success in sport is fostered by tenacity, and by the effort that only youth can muster; but greater than this kind of success is victory over oneself. It is a pleasure to see how triumphs in the stadium can become victories for society as a whole, as has happened in the case of Steffi Graf when she established her important foundation Children for Tomorrow.

The value of our awards - the genuine and exemplary nature of them - lies in how unifying they are, for not one of the individuals or institutions here present and being acknowledged are motivated by facile opportunism or the whims of the ephemeral. We discover in all of them those virtues that exalt men and women: the noble struggle for self-improvement, and for others? progress, courage, the spirit of innovation that forthcoming times demand, selfless service to society, an openness towards all nations devoid of sectarianism, and determination and self-sacrifice, taken on occasions to the very limits.

To sum up, we would emphasise that once again the Prince of Asturias Awards acknowledge all that is exceptional, (that is), the highest and most ejemplary qualities available to man to fulfil his aspirations and achieve the ideal model of a society that is more just, and displays greater culture, progress and concord. These are values that the award-winners have made their own, and democratic Spain proclaims them.

As we approach the end of a millennium it seems inevitable to look towards the future, to ponder on what we want the future awaiting us to be like, to try to understand the basic principles that will inspire tomorrow?s history, guarding whatever may be timeless from the past.

We are immediately confronted by major contradictions, by the vicissitudes of history, by the highlights and the low points that mark a paradoxical civilisation, by progress and degradation, respect and humiliation, absolute beauty and absolute ugliness. In the century that is ending we have managed to improve living standards for millions of human beings who lead a more dignified existence thanks to the spread of education, culture and health care, and intense scientific and technical development. Yet at the same time the gap between rich and poor, between rulers and ruled over, has widened, leaving a major part of Humanity condemned to injustice and poverty. The suffering of those for whom the mere mention of the modern age is a humiliating act of sarcasm is sadly familiar to us. And perhaps because we care more and more about respect for human rights, individual rights, freedom of opinion and ideas, and the right to work, we are more aware of their constant violations and also more responsible for them.

Achieving a fairer, more caring world must continue to be a priority of human activity. In the apotheosis of global communication, we must consolidate even further the idea that there is a single Human race with many separate identities, and that all of us on this earth should be equals in dignity, rights and obligations.

Therefore, we must consolidate the idea that we can live as whole human beings; that we can achieve a new model for the human race that builds its ethics on principles, on occasions totally new ones, to eradicate the pain and hate of human existence. To construct this new existence, we also need to see the women and men of the future as our fellow men to whom we have the responsibility of saving the planet. We become greater in this way, because those who think not only of their own era but also of leaving a better world for those who take over from us on this age-old road where nothing has been achieved easily become greater.

Many sacrifices have been required, and many still need to be made, to fulfil each of our dreams, to pursue each of our utopias. A great defender of human right proclaimed that «whoever wishes to reap the benefits of freedom should suffer the hardship of defending it.»

I will finish my speech by mentioning what I consider to be one of the major achievements of this century: the achievement of women?s rights.

As we all know, throughout history women have lived in a permanent state of being under the age of consent, marked by discrimination and subjugation. They were stripped of fundamental rights, and unable to participate in political, cultural or economic life save for a handful of splendid exceptions. Access to education and the conquest of equality that the women of the western world, Spanish women amongst them, have achieved has to a great extent led to the above absurd, unfair situation being redressed. However, this same situation still exists, and indeed gets painfully worse, on a large part of the planet.

The 20th century, which for this triumph alone deserves to go down in history as a fundamental century in the course of our civilisation, has not managed to see the desire for this equality to be universal fulfilled, for total respect and dignity for women is still being violated. However, it fills us with hope to think that the Spain that moves into the XXI century will be built for the first time in or history, and forever, on the joint efforts, creativity, and talents of Spanish men and women.

Thank you very much.

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