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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 2001 Prince of Asturias Awards

We have no wish for the history of man to be the history of his wars yet again; we wish it to be guided by the will to build up a universal community in peace and freedom.

As the age-old woods in the valleys of this much-loved land of Asturias begin to sense - as the poet says - `the broad moons and the short days of the winter time´ we are holding the first of our award ceremonies of the twenty-first century in this city of warm welcome and culture, Oviedo. Much to our satisfaction, we can say that after forging a long pathway that has been so full of genuine, life-enriching experiences, the awards have become a shining beacon of coexistence and culture the world over.

This year Asturias celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its Statute of Regional Autonomy, the centenary of the deaths of two writers, Ramón de Campoamor and Leopoldo Alas, `Clarín´, and the bicentenary of the birth of Alejandro Mon, the economist and expert in public finance. All three have bequeathed works which time has only served to enhance. Campoamor, who lends his name to this beautiful theatre we are in, with his touching, transparent poetry; Clarín, intelligent and ironic, the author of one of the works at the pinnacle of our literature, La Regenta, the novel, and Alejandro Mon, a reformer of the Spain of his times, a representative of the enterprising, rigorous facet of Asturias, selflessly devoted to the land of his birth.

But to our deep regret, memories of gratitude towards these great Spaniards and the joy of this ceremony, which now has such international regard, are overshadowed by those whose will is to usher Humanity, as on so many other occasions throughout history, towards a world of silence and fear, devoid of freedom. On the one hand, we witness the development of science and the arts progressing at unprecedented speeds, and yet we continue to live with the darkest of obscurities, at times as old as History itelf.

We have all also felt the horror of the terrorist attacks of last September 11th in the United States and the momentous consequences that affect us in so many ways. Rather than intimidating us, such events should give added impetus to the search for what unites us and saves us; in other words, universal protection and the ubiquity of human rights, respect for differences between cultures and civilizations, and the conviction that religious feelings constitute a profound ethical and spiritual stance that will help us to reach out towards others. This is how we will avoid the triumph of the fundamentalist rationale, which is so unjust to human reason and to the very religion that it purports to defend.

We have no wish for the history of man to be the history of his wars yet again; we wish it to be guided by the will to build up a universal community in peace and freedom; a world where terrorism, the brutality and fanaticism of which the Spanish are unfortunately only too well aware of, does not exist. This is why we reiterate our belief that eradicating it ought to be a top priority of the international community of free, democratic nations, since no cause, no project, no collective aspiration can serve as justification for carrying out, encouraging, or justifying terrorism in any of its guises. In short, we desire a World that can be guided by tolerance and solidarity. One of our award winners, professor Steiner, has said this in heartfelt words of great beauty: `All human beings should learn to live as if they were guests of life. There is no society, religion, city, or town that is not worthy of improvement. Likewise, there are none that deserves to be abandoned when injustice and savagery are imposed upon us.´

However, let us turn our eyes towards the event that brings us together here today, as the life and works of this year's award winners are a splendid offering to the high values that we strive to encourage from within our Foundation; life and work dedicated to freedom, creative passion and hope.

George Steiner, who has received the Award for Communication and the Humanities, is one such example.

His work represents very well this harmonious fusion of different peoples, ethnic groups and cultures that can prove so enriching. He has striven to encompass different fields of knowledge, such as literature, history, science, theology and anthropology. He has made such efforts with a sense of responsibility, deep thought, and knowledge of different languages and cultures, whereby his words have acquired the status of exemplary authority.

He has written fascinating pages on such issues as the worrying relinquishing of excellence by populist democracies, the increasing tendency of the mass media to target the easy segment of the market, the underlying violence that beats at the heart of developed societies, the misuse and abuse of science and technology, a certain spiritual weariness, widespread hunger or disease, the unending unfairness of wars or the special suffering felt by women and children.

George Steiner affords us intelligent, practical reflections to confront and banish such ills; he sometimes attributes their causes to the deficiencies of education in stopping wrong triumphing over sensibility and knowledge, and to the risks of an artistic and cultural elite existing alongside humanity's age-old stigmas, `the gloomy paradox´, as he describes the phenomenon that he dedicated a large part of his life to.

We thank George Steiner for the clarity of his thoughts and the intellectual honesty he has transmitted it with, just as we likewise thank and honour the discreet, patient work carried out in laboratories and research centres in the United States, France and England by the Technical and Scientific Research award winners, world leaders in research into the human genome.

They are represented here in the figures of Francis Collins, Hamilton Smith, John Sulston, Craig Venter and Jean Weissenbach. The teams they lead exemplify the multidisciplinary as well as the mutually supportive nature of scientific research. Their unswerving efforts dignify Humanity in general, and the outcome of their research opens new roads to knowledge, for the steps already taken in the study of the human genome are but the starting point towards new, promising horizons in Science.

Besides the scientific importance of genetic mapping, such access to what has come to be called `the book of life´ has once and for all demonstrated the error of those who used to uphold the belief in qualitative differences between human beings, and once based their racist, discriminatory theories on this rationale.

It is very encouraging to observe once again how the noblest efforts of scientists lead to such major advances in our knowledge about the basic structure of living species and the fight against disease. We are convinced that this will also be of benefit to all mankind.

The Award for Social Sciences went to the Colegio de México and to the Spanish jurist, Juan Iglesias. The cultures of our two countries, Mexico and Spain, merge once more in the form of our awards.

The unfortunate exodus of a great number of Spanish writers, intellectuals and teachers as a result of the civil war led to the founding of the Casa de España, the original name of today's Colegio de México. However, the exodus provided an example of dignity, as the painful leaving of the homeland quickly became a case of serenely spreading knowledge and culture, thanks to which Spain became a prodigious, generous seed for culture. Those Spanish intellectuals of the highest order, both men and women, understood how to sow, grow and then reap the fruits for their second country, who welcomed them with open generosity, and showed that however sad that uprooting may be, it is not an insurmountable impediment to the flowering of culture, and that integration overcomes the suffering and tragedies of history.

But let us not forget the difficult task of rising above a time of confrontation and grief also occurred within Spain. The list of intellectuals who struggled in difficult circumstances and with enormous dignity here to save Spanish culture would be interminable. Juan Iglesias, the professor of Roman Law, did so in difficult times from within the Spanish university; first from Oviedo, Salamanca and Barcelona, and then from Madrid Complutense, and his work acquired an international standing.

Juan Iglesias has done intense, exemplary educational and research work, and for over sixty years has taught generations of Spanish and Latin American jurists, who are indebted to him for a solid moral and legal training, and have fortunately been for ever infected by his love for justice. His studies on Roman Law, deeply rooted in his profound sense of morality, respect and education, clearly show the Roman substratum of western culture. This very same culture was born along on Spain's ardent desire to civilise, was kept alive by such institutions as the Colegio de México, and flowered on a new continent.

The fact that this Social Science Award was won jointly is further invitation for us to continue to encourage the coming together and dialogue between different cultures. María Zambrano - exiled in Mexico and honoured with the first of our Awards for Letters in 1981 - passed on to us a sentence which might sum up the sixty years of the concern of the Colegio de México and of Juan Iglesias when she said, `You have made no mention of the most important aspect of any personal life: sacrifice´.

Every year we count on the presence and testimony of art and artists, a marvellous counterpoint to the terrible extremes that we human beings go to on occasions. The Polish musician Krzysztof Penderecki, an exceptional artist, a great friend of Spain, receives this year's Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts.

A talent for innovation and a taste for tradition, technical mastery and spiritual inspiration, a social stance and lyricism combine in few contemporary creative artists. Krzysztof Penderecki is not only one of the greatest twentieth century composers but is also an outstanding teacher, a performer and orchestra conductor.

He has had to witness adverse social situations and his music has been a rousing plea for sincerity and dignity at a time when artists suffered oppression and persecution either because of their ideas or for being intellectuals who remained faithful to creating in freedom. His compositions will be affectionately linked forever more to the reality and spirit of the latter half of the twentieth century, which is hallmarked by the most incredible human progress and by the most distressing confrontations between peoples.

The worst of realities and the aspirations of the spirit, his own country and a world fraternity combine and are present at all times in the music of our award winner. His sincerity, his intelligent use of romantic forms, his all-encompassing spirituality, have transformed this musician into an exceptional communicator. His greatness and originality lie precisely in this ability to communicate so movingly through his music.

Krzysztof Pederecki allows our times to express itself through his music. Thus, protest and acceptance, sorrow and passionate religiousness, all that is divine and all that is human, all rise forth from his musical notes. We exhort him to continue in this way!

This year's Award for Letters has been bestowed on the British writer, Doris Lessing. Born in what used to be Persia, we can rightly say that the geography of her heart, far more so than the geography of the different countries she has lived in, has been sculpted by an awareness of injustice and the suffering of others. A traveller from country to country because of her father's work, she has put her compassion and rebelliousness to use to fight for a more humane and fairer society. She has given shape in her works to her commitment against racism, against inequality and her defence of womanhood. With uncompromising independence she has opposed inter-cultural confrontation and the disasters of emigration.

Doris Lessing has been ahead of her time in confronting many of the thorny issues of our times. But perhaps what most particularly sets her apart from others is her concern for the problems of the situation of women, to such an extent that her person and her work are an inevitable benchmark for all those women who are committed to the fight for their dignity.

Having suffered in person, Doris Lessing has also warned us against the utopias of political idealism and against the barbarism of terrorism, the most extreme aberration of ideologies, which she has masterfully analysed in her novels.

She is admired and read throughout the world for all these reasons, for her ethical and creative singularity, for her highly independent conscience, for a call for memories of the past that is one of the themes of her work. We echo this sentiment and thank her for her valuable moral and intellectual legacy.

A new star shines in Earth's nights, a work of creation, on this occasion human. It is the International Space Station, the International Co-operation Award winner, the fruits of an enormous effort led by the space agencies of the United States of America, Europe, Russia, Japan and Canada.

This ambitious project, which over twenty thousand technical experts from twenty counties are participating in, does not aim at costly, utopian adventures out in Space, but rather at bettering the knowledge about our own planet so as to conserve what is so under threat and improve the quality of life on it. State-of-the-art technical laboratories on board will provide more precise knowledge about our climate, plants and animals, about the environment that supports life but is sending out so many signals nowadays of change and of danger.

As was pointed out by the Jury who bestowed the Award, confronting the dangers that threaten life on Earth is the major objective of this scientific adventure, which is surely the biggest work of civil engineering ever undertaken by man in Space, and which furthermore will prove to be a momentous source of information in the fields of physics, biology and in general for all the important questions related to our knowledge of interplanetary space.

Bertrand Russell used to say that the only thing that would redeem Humanity is cooperation, as it is useless to wish good on yourself without also wishing it upon everybody. The International Space Station, so splendidly represented on this stage, is an outstanding model of cooperation and fraternity amongst human beings. In contrast to the dangers of destruction from the misuse of techniques and technologies which threaten us, this adventure in Space opens up new horizons, is a counterbalance to such excesses, is a solution to cure the many wounds that we have inflicted on our beautiful planet.

Of no less importance for defending life and biodiversity on Earth is the activity of UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the winner of the Award for Concord.

For the last thirty years, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves has been turning the much sought-after balance between the development of society and respect for nature into a reality. The "Man and Biosphere" programme is replete with approaches and solutions that are not only of an environmental nature but also cultural and human. Conserving large area of Nature that are still unspoilt, the real treasures of Humanity, is a challenge that brooks no delay, that demands further research and work, and a wider scope of action.

Over 400 Biosphere Reserves make up the network; Spain contributes twenty of them. Ordesa and Sierra Nevada, the islands of Lanzarote and Menorca, Muniellos, Somiedo, and now the Reres Nature Park here in Asturias are just some of these exceptional places that we must continue to protect and to increase. In this respect, the project to include the whole coastline of Cantabria in the Network of Biosphere Reserves - if it becomes a reality - could turn this area into one with a rich natural heritage, which could have undreamt-of, positive outcomes for the land and its inhabitants.

We have here, therefore, an organisation that is taking major, wise steps, such as promoting what is generally known as `sustainable development´, a practice that proposes the rational use of natural resources and which reconciles the terms conservation and development. It is an approach based on the idea of balanced, pro-conservation progress and is a model for the management of the interaction between man and the land that looks way towards the future.

Manual Estiarte, the Spanish water polo player receives the Award for Sports. Once again, in a world convulsed by many serious problems - some of which threaten our youth - we emphasise the healthy, exemplary nature of sport and the great values that competition provides to human development.

So it is not strange that when the decision on who would win this award coincided with the grave events of New York and Washington, the jury has no hesitation in drawing attention to the importance of sport as an ideal symbol of union and peace amongst peoples, and as a most noble activity that is radically opposed to so much cruelty.

Many sporting values and successes coincide in the figure of Manuel Estiarte, and they should be pointed out here. He has taken part in six Olympic Games, was the top scorer in five of them, and has played over 300 matches as an international with the Spanish national team. Gold and silver medals, world championships and runners-up positions, the Spanish, Italian and European cups and supercups are all there in his lengthy curriculum as a sportsman.

But Manual Estiarte has also been outstanding throughout his career because of his excellent human qualities, which already shone forth from his early days as a youth player, or in his behaviour as captain and unquestioned leader. These same virtues and his social awareness of sport inspired him not only to flee from prominence in any shape or form, but also to involve himself in parallel activities, such as being a member of the International Athletes Committee and the Olympic Committee, and being the Spanish flag bearer in Sydney 2000.

It should not be forgotten that Manuel Estiarte has reached the top in a minority sport, which does not have the advantages and the coverage of other sports. His example shines no less brightly, though. With the award bestowed on him today we are also acknowledging the merits of the Spanish water polo team, and of all those love or do this sport, which is particularly humble and demanding.

Before finishing my speech I wish to express my gratitude to those who show such enormous generosity: the Juries of the Awards, the Patrons, and Members of the Foundation, and all those who contribute with many hard-worked hours and endless days to making this great day a reality: I wholeheartedly thank Asturias and the city of Oviedo for their ever-heartwarming welcome and their invaluable help towards the greater glory of this institution and the values it strives to promote. I likewise wish to thank our award winners for attending this unforgettable ceremony, attended by high level cultural, social and political representations, to whom I also express my acknowledgement.

Whilst the heroic firemen of New York work round the clock amid the steel, rubble and fire, from here in Asturias, from a Spain replete in vitality and noble aims that are manifest in this event, we wish to reach out in solidarity to the American people, to the innocent victims of the savage terrorist act inflicted on this much-loved country, amongst whom there are Spanish citizens, who we remember with particular emotion. Nor do we wish to forget all those people anywhere in the world who have paid for the madness of terrorist violence with their lives and their blood. We convey our gratitude and support to those who are far from home defending the sublimest good, freedom for all.

May the flames of peace that we have seen flicker in the hands of Manhattan dwellers defeat the flames of horror and death. May consciences and wills find their path to concord in the Middle East. May the inspiring, heartfelt words of the poets light the way at this difficult time for the world. Now more than ever we dream of a Mankind where disheartenment does not exist, where the depth of the following lines of verse are a reality:

Let us hope that the thread does not break yet
endless hope and may memory last
under the settling light of the evening.

Thank you.

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