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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 2000 Prince of Asturias Awards

With the strength of the Crown, the protection of the Constitution and the enthusiastic work of the Spanish, Spain, with its problems, is today a country that has progressed enormously, united in peace, respected in the world, a repository of inalienable values.

I return with a deep, contained feeling of elation to Asturias to attend this formal presentation ceremony this year in which we celebrate the twentieth edition of our Awards. This annual reunion with the people, the valleys and the woods of this dearly-loved land - bathed at present in Autumn light - is always a cause of great joy to me, and is even more so in the event of this happy commemoration.

I would first like to congratulate the award-winners with all my heart; their selfless work heartens us and is a guiding light and stimulus for all our hours to be as unselfishly given over to others and as productive as theirs have been. Together with those who have preceded them, they are the ones who make us believe. Their contribution strengthens the desires and hopes for the future that we place in the Foundation.

I warmly thank the personages and representations from Spain and other friendly countries who have honoured us with their presence here today.

I would like to extend this gratitude with special affection to my parents, Their Majesties the King and Queen. Throughout these twenty years they have lent decisive backing to the work of our Foundation, which pays tribute to those highest moral values to which constitutional and democratic Spain is firmly committed. Without such values Humanity would be spiritually impoverished, less mutually supportive and even less just. For this reason, it is a cause of great pride for us to be able to foster these values, modestly, but with the conviction and determination required.

Our Awards have ever-greater international repercussions. This success lies in unstinting work and a profound commitment to the most hallowed of ethical principles. For without this nobler vision, without trustworthiness, without reaching spiritual heights, nothing lasting, nothing we can have faith in, can be created

Throughout this time, Asturias has contributed significantly to the progress of these Awards, which from here have become the patrimony of all the Spanish people. I thank the people of Asturias for this memorable attitude, so in keeping with their generous dedication to Spain throughout history. I would also express my appreciation to the Foundation's patrons, the members of the juries and all those people who, discreetly and yet passionately, have made them possible.

On the threshold of a new century, comforted by all these feelings of joy, it is a satisfaction for me to tell this international audience that Spain continues along the road to freedom and progress; it is a journey our nation is undertaking with hope and determination, free at last from the burden of pessimism that so overshadowed recent centuries of its course through history.

It is true that there are problems to solve, such as the ones in the Basque Country, where we all have "the heart of our soul", just like Unamuno. We believe a future with dignity can only be forged by commending what unites us and not by widening what falsely separates us, by integrating and not excluding; we maintain a firm hope that the end to so much suffering cannot be far off. There is always room for meeting and mutual understanding amongst those who place the supreme value of life itself above fanaticism and crime.

This evening brings to mind the deepest gratitude and feelings towards those who risk their lives there to defend our coexistence in freedom and democracy, which was won with so much sacrifice. Their commitment and exemplary bravery mean that we are all more human and freer. We do not forget, nor will we ever forget, the victims of terrorist madness that spreads pain and cuts down lives throughout our country. They are, in the words of José Angel Valiente, "the resounding blood of freedom".

Let us now talk about our award-winners:

It fills me with pleasure to know that the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities was conferred on a representative of the highest level of international culture, the lecturer and writer, Umberto Eco.

Professor of History and Medieval Culture, doctor honoris causa at twenty-five universities, outstanding semiotician and critical analyst, an exemplary reader and an extraordinarily perceptive writer, his list of merits is nevertheless unending.

Umberto Eco has brought together tradition and modernity knowledgeably. He has encyclopaedic knowledge and a rigorous academic training, with which he has created worlds of fiction where beauty, intelligence and insatiable curiosity prevail. Works such as "Apocalípticos e Integrados", "The Name of the Rose" and "Foucault's Pendulum" are in the minds of readers world-wide and have had the virtue of reaching a surprising majority of people. His treatises on semiotics, in contrast, have influenced students and specialists for many years, and have modernised the study and analysis of human communication processes.

However, his thoughts and work are not restricted to the fields of academia and the novel; they deal with the latest, most conflictive questions of human co-existence. Umberto Eco invites us to lift our vision and thoughts upwards, because neither mystery nor proof - he tells us - are easy.

At a time when a mistaken over-evaluation of what is useful has led to a drop in the level of humanistic training of our citizens in many countries, Umberto Eco's example shows us that true progress can only be achieved when the sciences and humanities each occupy their right place in mankind's education.

The virologists Robert Gallo and Luc Montaignier, upon whom the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research has been conferred, also work with tenacity and wisdom.

These two great scientists have adopted the role of being in productive competition to confront one of our century's major biomedical challenges: the study of AIDS and the virus that causes it. We hope that their research efforts and selfless commitment to eradicating an illness that has rocked mankind in the last twenty years of this century will soon lead to further promising results.

Dr. Gallo and Dr. Montaignier have broadcast a dramatic message we wish to echo here today: there is a pressing need to increase financial and scientific efforts to find a vaccine that will slow down the alarming world-wide growth rate of the disease. They have also condemned the shortage of resources to attend victims who still suffer in subhuman conditions in many parts of the world, especially in the poorest countries.

Medicine plays a momentous role in the fight for a fairer, more mutually supportive world. However, recent outstanding breakthroughs in medical research are cause for concern as well as admiration: the concern that the high price of some therapies may widen the social gap, for while some citizens can acquire treatment effortlessly, they will be unattainable for others. It is worrying for us, as it is to our prize-winners, to see how the gap between rich and poor countries may well become deeper and broader because of this. We back them in the efforts to raise the voice of alarm as to the gravity of the problem in the most important world forums.

The award made to these two great scientists brings to mind the work of all those who fight to save lives and to provide health and hope where there is only suffering and death from the silence of their laboratories or by their exemplary commitment.

Let us return to Italy, to its time-honoured wisdom and culture, to exalt Cardinal Carlo María Martini, the archbishop of Milan, illustrious son of our Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who has been honoured with The Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences.

Cardinal Martini, a doctor in theology and Holy Scripture, has been lecturer at the Biblical Institute of Rome, the vice-chancellor of the Gregorian University - named by His Holiness Pope John Paul II - and president of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe.

But, as is the case with the other prize-winners, merely providing a long list of his merits does not show us the true nature of his virtues. For in Cardinal Martini there is also a very special ethical magnitude that goes far beyond any formal recognition he has received.

Cardinal Martini, a priest in the large diocese of Milan, has made his cathedral a temple for the divine word, for prayer and for fraternity. His open-minded, understanding attitude is synthesised in a profound wish to meet, as he himself has said, "all those who wonder about the mystery of human existence". We should seek the secret of his teaching, which has been honed by hours of spiritual retirement and solitude, in his faith in the word and his conviction of the need for permanent dialogue.

He is the author of today's most widely read Biblical commentaries; his stimulating, modern interpretation of the Holy Scriptures beckon us to a long-awaited encounter with the quiet, peaceful life of piety and dignity that the scriptures promise us.

Cardinal Martini cares for the dispossessed, the elderly, immigrants, the persecuted, grass-root communities and prisoners. He talks to people from other religions and to agnostics, to explore the opportunities of establishing joint action in favour of a more human world. He has done this, with brilliance and exemplary understanding, on the question of the basis of ethics, with Umberto Eco. From different stances the two of them have come close together in their aims, in their desire to reach moral perfection and find answers to questions raised by the modern world.

Without losing sight of the fact that the ultimate aim of human life is, as he has said, "obedience to a mystery that is greater than us", the ability to explain man's greatest contradictions knowledgeably and with kindness shines forth in the attitude and beliefs of Cardinal Martini.

Our Awards once again return to Spanish America, as the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters goes to Augusto Monterroso, one of the authors who has most endeavoured, from the other side of the Atlantic, to find new paths to literary creation.

The history of Spanish literature has been written thanks largely to the endeavours of a broad group of Spanish American writers. This is because, amongst other reasons, they succeeded in enriching their language with peculiarities from their countries of origin and with the best Castillian tradition, to form something new and original with a strength of expression that identifies them uniquely.

This originality is represented here today in the person of Augusto Monterroso, a writer who is Honduran by birth and Guatemalan at heart, or more precisely in his masterly short story writing. By conferring the award on Augusto Monterroso one is also doing so on the short story as a genre of which he is one of the most illustrious representatives in the Spanish language.

Reality and fantasy, satire and humour, precision and witticism are the main characteristics of his work. The "Cervantine, melancholic originality" of his style, which the Jury made reference to when giving the award, may stem from his being self-taught and from his constant need to learn.

Finally, we might say in his honour that it is impossible to overlook his passionate, pacific resistance in favour of democracy for his country; this has meant an exile that has lasted fifty-two years and has closely linked him to Mexican culture.

The soprano Barbara Hendricks, who has been conferred the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, rightly believes that music is for the world as a whole and that she sings for the world as a whole.

Gifted with excellent faculties, with a special emotive quality to her voice and an international presence of twenty-five years standing, Barbara Hendricks knows our country well; she admires its history, and several of our best singers have been her maestros.

It should be emphasised that her life is not only guided by a love of music but also by a dedication to humanitarian work. She has made the whole world - particularly some of the countries in conflict - the object of her efforts. She has been Good Will Ambassador for the United Nation's High Commission for Refugees, and we owe to her the initiative to create an institution to promote peace and reconciliation throughout the world.

Her beautiful voice has served to raise a protest against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance. Her believes are born out of a conviction that life is a marvellous opportunity to devote oneself to others. Her great humanity also often shows up in clearly-stated, simple ideas, as when she declares that, "music is medicine for the voice, but for the soul as well".

Coinciding with the fifth centenary of Brazil, its President, Doctor Fernando Henrique Cardoso receives the Prince of Asturias Award for International Co-operation for his outstanding political leadership and his efforts to fight social inequality and to promote education and culture at all social levels.

Brazil is a great, immense, dynamic and rich nation, a miracle of racial and national fraternity, celebrating its birth proud at having created a culture of open, democratic tolerance, and with extraordinarily important opportunities for development.

Before becoming involved in politics, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was a scholar of social reality; this initial interest has allowed him to brilliantly deal with such wide-ranging, complex affairs as inflation, the democratic spirit, the world of finance, institutional improvement, the common American market, and mediation between countries. He is a sensitive intellectual who is clear-sighted in his interpretation of the vertiginous changes we are experiencing. He has taken upon himself the task of achieving better living conditions and an acceptable level of social justice for his country.

His cultural sensitivity has also led him to take an interest in a question that is close to the Crown's heart: respect and love of the Spanish and Portuguese languages. His interest in increasing the teaching of Spanish in Brazil and in spreading Portuguese abroad is one further way - and a true and possible essential one at that - of bringing people together for the prosperity of the Spanish American community.

Recognition of the work of President Cardoso leads us to reflect on the mutual relationships that have existed between our countries, and particularly on what shape our future collaboration might take - especially as regards the economy, culture, education and the environment. These are four facets of development in which Spain, as a brotherly nation, should be particularly well-represented. For a broad range of countries in that continent who need to develop their national economies, strengthen and protect their cultures and safeguard their natural heritage require the help of both Spain and Brazil. Such help should not just focus on providing all the means possible to achieve these ends, but also protect them from any initiative born exclusively out of uncontrolled development, unbridled ambition and speculation.

We are certain that such collaboration would contribute to greater mutual knowledge of our respective cultures, and would raise the awareness of everybody as to the serious and urgent problem of environmental conservation and protection. For the marvellous natural state of Brazil, recognised world-wide as essential for life on this planet, needs to be protected with the help of everybody. President Cardoso has appealed to international bodies for this help to provide enough projects and resources to save these vital spaces once and for all.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Sports has been conferred upon a cyclist for the second time. In the past it was our own Miguel Indurain, today it is Lance Armstrong, who undoubtedly combines all the virtues of the great sportsman.

Armstrong adds triumphs that he achieved far from competition to those he earned in sport, when, struck down by cancer, he trod the paths of desperation, fear, pain and suffering with extraordinary bravery. He has returned from them a greater, spiritually changed man, ready to inspire the will to live in others who are ill, like he himself was. For this reason he has created the Foundation that bears his name, where he works passionately, helping people to come to terms with their illness, to face it and beat it.

The Royal Academy defines the word concord as conformity, agreement, pact, consensus, harmony and union. All these words also apply to the commendable work of the Academy and Association of Academies of the Spanish Language, who have won the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord this year. It is splendid to see agreement and harmony after social confrontation and warfare, but it is no less splendid to see how the word - which embodies the Spanish language, spoken by 400 million people in the world - is the end point of this harmonious union.

The Spanish language is one of Humanity's great legacies; it is a productive vehicle for peaceful understanding and an essential tool of cultural creation. The illustrious Academies represented here today protect and stimulate it with their selfless work to spread it, and save it in all its rigour and purity.

The consensus agreed upon as regards orthography, the incessant work in the fields of lexis and grammar, the preparation of a new Dictionary of the Language and of the Academic Dictionary of Americanisms - which will include the linguistic peculiarities of each country - and the adaptation of all this work to technological change are tasks that round off this initial approach based on dialogue, concord and peace that is concomitant of the Spanish language.

All of which brings us back to its roots, to the land where the language was born, to the lands of Spain, and to a belief that precisely here, the Spanish language - everybody's language - might also be one of the most precious tools for permanent reconciliation and peace amongst us; it must never be a point of confrontation.

The sentiments that this ceremony expresses and the tragic events of the Israeli and Palestinian people in the Holy Land clash in our minds and remind us of the 1994 awards ceremony, when Isaac Rabin and Yaser Arafat collected the Prince of Asturias Award for International Co-operation, which they shared.

The content of the encouraging speeches made that memorable day by both personages and their expressive, warm demonstration of mutual understanding should live on. We are aware that much has to be forgotten, but we are also convinced that greater fruits can be harvested through dialogue, negotiation and generosity. We long for Jerusalem, with its age-old links to the Crown, to be a centre for peace, co-existence and hope, an example of brotherhood and concord to all and sundry. We dream, like the Sephardi poet, of the time when the flame of peace burns brightly in the night of pain.

Before ending this speech, please allow me to publicly remind you - with the joy and spontaneity of heartfelt gesture - of the proximity of an anniversary of special significance to those of us Spaniards who appreciate and are grateful for the work done from a Democratic Spain of Peace and Freedom.

Twenty-five years ago, His Majesty the King, with Her Majesty the Queen at his side, began a reign which through being innovative, modern and close to the people has managed to find the right place that History and democratic, plural co-existence required of it.

Although I confess it is not easy because of the close ties that bind us, it is emotive for me to evoke His work in this way from my dearly-beloved Asturias, the source of so many emotions, concerns and initiatives that have made a fundamental contribution to the construction of Spain. I wish to highlight from here His commitment to a historic mission, the wisdom that drives His work and His efforts to be, as he truly is, the King of all the Spanish.

With the strength of the Crown, the protection of the Constitution and the enthusiastic work of the Spanish, Spain, with its problems, is today a country that has progressed enormously, united in peace, respected in the world, a repository of inalienable values. With its splendid literary and artistic creativity and increasingly widely recognised research work, our country is confronting the complex challenges of the information society and the new economy. Solidly trained youth, the growing prominence of women in all facets of life in society, an enterprising entrepreneurial business sector, and workers who show constant signs of responsibility all open the best doorways towards the future.

I express my profound admiration and gratitude as a Spaniard and as a son to Their Majesties the King and Queen for their decisive contribution to this work.

Thank you very much.

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