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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 2003 Prince of Asturias Awards

Spain has never before been as free, as prosperous, as capable, and as much admired as in these times bathed in the light of our law of laws. To the world at large it has regained its status as a great nation whose history is essential to an understanding of the history of mankind.

As the days in our country become shorter in their flight towards winter, we re-live with renewed hopes and expectations yet another inspiring yearly Awards presentation ceremony.

These inspiring, solemn moments are the culmination of many hours dedicated to the belief that our Awards should be a forum for the rapprochement of cultures and dialogue, the dream of a more fraternal mankind, and a moral fortress so that what has poetically been described as "the infinite desert plains of ingratitude and oblivion", should never dwell within us.

Inspired by these firm beliefs, we extend our warmest welcome from our beloved Asturias to the Award winners, the members of the different juries, the Foundation's patrons and sponsors, the media from so many corners of the world, thousands of anonymous people and others who are prominent figures insofar as what they represent, all of whom have joined us to enjoy this memorable day. I express my deepest gratitude to all these people, for we owe to them and their forerunners the fondness, great admiration and high esteem felt for our Awards in Spain and throughout the world.

The work of all the Award winner who honour us yearly with their presence at this theatre is indeed memorable, as is the emotion and inspiration felt when one observes the world and ourselves from this vantage point of fine work, example and commitment epitomised by the men and women who receive our Awards today. It is they, as Cervantes surmised, who show us the way forward, after first having endured much suffering themselves.

The Peruvian theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and the Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuściński, Award winners for Communication and the Humanities are well aware of their own and other people's suffering.

Gustavo Gutiérrez has given his life over to Theology - which he defines as a reflection on faith with faith itself as the starting point for reflection. He considers theology to hold a wealth of nuances, as a dialogue, he has said, "with contemporary culture", as "an approach to the Gospel from a position of freedom", and as "a way of communicating with God in today's world". Seen in this light, he perpetuates his faith in humanity, despite the great injustices and inequalities that he is so familiar with. His beliefs are founded upon the conviction that the hope conveyed in the Christian message lives on in all its greatness, and is essential if we are to overcome the appalling situations in the world we live in.

In the human and spiritual path he has forged, this Peruvian theologian bears witness to the fact that the Christian message does not weaken a commitment towards progress of mankind in our times. He has shown us that the quest for freedom and the desire for liberation - the main aspirations of the world today - have their roots in the heritage of Christianity.

Father Gutiérrez has stood out for having known how to build his truth on the basis of comprehensive culture and solid education, qualities that are deeply rooted in the Peruvian people.

Ryszard Kapuściński is possibly the world's most prestigious journalist, and a point of reference for any review of the history of the final third of the twentieth century. Like Father Gutiérrez, he views his work as an attempt to stand up for the underdog and to give them a voice, for - in his own words - "somebody has to speak up for the poor". Through his moral commitment he has become a highly admired professional, particularly amongst the younger generations of news reporters, who see in him a moral benchmark.

Truly observant, gifted like few others with an ability to spot the most revealing, significant details of a complex reality, our award winner has also turned his hand to narrating his experiences with utmost style, and has become a distinguished and respected writer. His work not only describes his travel experiences clearly and without bias, but also provide magnificent lessons on poverty and on something worse than poverty itself - the despair of the world's underprivileged, for want of horizons and opportunities to free themselves from their poverty.

We welcome the bestowing of the Award for Letters on the writers Fatema Mernissi and Susan Sontag, for it is comforting to observe how two women from such contrasting cultures each base their work upon the same foundations of dialogue and mutual understanding when frictions and confrontation are rife, when sadly terror rears its ugly head far too frequently, when the will to annihilate and crush others' beliefs is ever greater.

The need to understand their worlds and the quest for true communication lie at the heart of both writers' approach to life. Fatema Mernissi has stated so, for she views the written word as the main means of achieving harmony. Her idea leads us to a better understanding of the path - by no means devoid of difficult challenges and personal conflicts - that this Moroccan writer has forged with subtle intelligence, opening no wounds, so that women from her culture can take up their rightful place in today's society.

Within her own culture she participates in and encourages change in her country, Morocco - a country of extraordinary vitality - that is changing and opening up with hope towards a better future, something we fervently support.

Morever, Fatema Mernissi, with her different perspective, with irony, understanding and a sense of humour, has highlighted many of the contradictions she has observed in the Western world, bringing to light the shortfalls she observes in a culture like our own, which on occasions is imposed upon women, who become prey to manipulation and fashion victims. Such behaviour is an offence to their dignity.

Susan Sontag wrote a very perceptive line, one that serves to throw light on her career to date: "I think it is still worthwhile resisting" she has said. She has indeed lived her life resisting, anchored firmly to her deepest convictions, opposing all types of fanaticism, being sensitive to everyday problems and, in short, remaining free and extremely intellectually independent. She has proved her case by writing numerous books resorting to such literary genres as the essay, the novel, and journalism. Such books are admirable in their originality and wealth of ideas, for, as has been said, the more points of view we have access to, the closer we will be to the essence of things, and the truth we all strive for.

The writers who share this prize are women who are prepared to fight in difficult times, when extremist societies are still reluctant to accept women on an equal footing. Their difficulties in their efforts to defend their believes have thus been twofold, and have called for great determination; it is nevertheless a cause for celebration to see that awards such as the one presented to them today, champion their perseverance and that their tenacity reaps the rewards of rightful dignity. It is our belief, as expressed by an Arabic-Spanish poet, that they come here "as the very best of envoys".

From the outset, our Awards aspired to be at the forefront of the burning problems of our times. We are therefore pleased at the Award bestowed upon the towering work of Jürgen Habermas, which has left a profound mark - so it has been said - on fields as diverse as philosophy, sociology, political science, legislative theory, history, pedagogy and theology. For this reason, he has touched upon our most pressing issues in his philosophy and thought. He has been granted this year's Award for Sciences.

Habermas is a champion of the particularly rich and creative German language and culture, which has bequeathed us the greatest fruits of science, language and literature, arts and philosophy. A direct disciple of the so-called Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, where he grew and developed intellectually, he has produced work of great significance and scope which he has presented to us as being the philosophical discourse of modern times. In such discourse, Habermas has explained the roots and structure of social knowledge, the phenomena of science and technology, the theories of communicative action, and what might be termed the pathologies of our time.

Influenced by his generation's experiences of the war and the Nazi regime, he has paid special attention to political theory and reflection, particularly democracy and its variations, as well as the relationship between legislation and power.

Besides being a theoretician, Jurgen Habermas has left his mark as an intellectual, in the best tradition of the great men of European language and literature, playing a crucial role in key political debates, on the likes of Europeanism and the construction of Europe, whenever his criteria or his conscience have called for such a response. He has shown himself to be a keen and sometimes critical observer of the exercise of power and its activities, unswervingly seeking to defend the law, reason and morality.

Human rights would be of little use if we did not also protect the rights of Nature in which those same right are exercised and enjoyed, or if we did not support every life form to be found on our planet. This is the reason behind the Award for Technical and Scientific Research being granted to the British ethologist, Jane Goodall.

Her love for observing and studying animal behaviour - particularly chimpanzees' behaviour - has its origin in a different kind of love: the love for books that her mother instilled in her as a child, providing her with a wide range of stimuli so that through sheer hard work and a stroke of luck she could dedicate her life to what she most loved, animal life. The decisive opportunity came along when at the age of twenty-three she first travelled to Africa.

She has lived engrossed in the study of the life of chimpanzees for over forty years since then, especially the chimps at the Gombe Stream Reserve, in Tanzania - although she has also concerned herself with Burundi, Sierra Leone and Gambia - often working in the most adverse of conditions. The fruits of her many years of impassioned work have been recognised by numerous awards and distinctions, of which twenty are doctorates honoris causa.

The study of primate behaviour has led Jane Goodall - as well as the school of researchers she has trained and the Institute that bears her name - to levels of scientific knowledge that embrace not only the behaviour of the human species but also of nature as a whole, something she has gone to great lengths to conserve and protect. Furthermore, she has worked tirelessly with the young to foster their love, compassion and respect towards all forms of life and the environment in which they flourish, all too often threatened by man's ignorance and avarice.

For the above reasons, and siding with her in her marvellous dedication, its seems the right moment for us to draw attention to the serious consequences of the environmental change our planet is undergoing, and its causes, which give rise to concern at all levels, regardless of race, people or borders.

Mankind is facing one of the greatest challenges it has ever faced during its wondrous, exceptional adventure on the planet, for only concerted effort by everybody for everybody, only global solutions, can come to terms with this ever more serious danger.

The task must be undertaken with the same hope, optimism and faith in mankind as shown by Jane Goodall, who believes that there are a growing number of us committed to joining our hands and our hearts in a joint effort to make our world a better place. This year in Spain, on our Atlantic coast and in the Bay of Biscay, we have witnessed how thousands of volunteers spontaneously and generously provided us all with an example of such an admirable attitude, of which we are proud and fully supportive.

The Award for Sports has been won by the Tour de France, the world's leading cycle race, now in its centenary this year. Once again, individual effort to the point of self-sacrifice and teamwork amongst sportsmen, coupled with excellent organisation, go hand in hand to produce one of the competitions that is most enthusiastically followed and admired throughout the world.

The historically acclaimed Tour de France has had an enormous social importance, particularly for those of us from Spain, for it represented a window on Europe, a point of contact with other peoples, with another land, and with other cultures during difficult years. The importance that the Tour has had for our country is due to a large extent to the great Spanish cyclists that have taken part in it.

Over the years, several of them have regaled us with the beauty of their effort, their talent for sport and their aspirations, alongside the intelligence of their teamwork. Sport, if played in its true spirit, is synonymous with friendship, mutual help and solidarity amongst countries, and particularly amongst the sportsmen representing those countries.

We are always inspired by the presence on stage of our Award winners, but the cyclists with us today almost represent a part of our own deeply felt hopes and aspirations, and stir special feelings in us. For this reason, we hope their efforts and determination will continue to be an example in the sports that our youngsters take up.

Youth is also a key value to be highlighted in this year's Award for the Arts, bestowed upon the Majorcan painter, Miquel Barceló. Youth, tireless work and unquestionable creative originality are the foundations supporting the work of this outstanding figure of our arts, who has shone from the outset as few others have with the brilliance of originality.

We are happy that our awards not only recognise work that is the fruit of long life, but that they are also prepared to highlight work spawned by the creative drive of youth, that the fame and honour of an artist of the status of Miquel Barceló stems not from many years of work but rather from the aesthetic value of that work. Miquel Barceló's creative art has come about at critical times for international art, times when it is difficult to combine vanguard and tradition, to distinguish between the permanent and the ephemeral.

At such a junction, the tireless Barceló has found many ways to unfurl his talents: painting, sculpture, sketch, ceramics and glass. As the most perceptive of experts have said, his work encompasses the whole range of mediums, with simple brush strokes always at the extremes, full of daring and inspiration, with material in constant metamorphosis combining with permanently fresh colours. The result is highly personal work, far from the postulates of groups and generations, engaged in a continual process of discovery. Barceló's dedicated work leads him to endless discovery, because he knows that the true artist is always, as he himself has told us, "continually in the learning process, at the origins", when it comes to creation.

This faith in his origins, in his roots in the island of Majorca, and by extension the whole of the Mediterranean world, is the fertile breeding ground of his paintings.

The British writer, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, has been granted the Award for Concord. Somebody once said that the person who writes and leaves an imprint on the heart of a child, will have done so for eternity. J.K. Rowling has done just that with the adventures of the character born of her creative talent, the wizard Harry Potter, read especially by millions of children, in whom we have witnessed the precious awakening of a passion for reading, so often sadly forgotten. Through her books, children of different ethnic groups and cultures have been united by the invisible but lasting links of a shared hobby, of fantasy and of the thirst for knowledge.

With no other company than her dreams -dreams without which mankind's heart and soul could not survive - Rowling's powerful imagination combines the best traditions of children's literature and adventure stories with the fostering of essential values such as solidarity, comradeship and loyalty in her books with fascinating narrative skills.

Harry Potter, a solitary sensitive hero, has given the joy of living in a world of imagination back to many children and adolescents; it has provided them with an infallible way of fleeing boredom and routine, and has shepherded them away from the violence and despair that so offers irrupts in society. Rowling's work has become an unprecedented human and sociological phenomenon in the culture of our times, thereby confirming the classic adage that "small things grow with concord; big things collapse with discord".

The Award for International Cooperation has been bestowed upon his Excellency the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, for the example that his own life represents, for the equitable, democratic way in which he pursues his political ideals, for his committed persistence in making ethics and politics inseparable from public activities.

The priority anti-hunger programme in his country, his idea of a world in which models of development preferentially target the needy, the courage and wisdom of his proposals constitute enormous hope, for as Kapuściński affirms, history clearly teaches us that "there are no short cuts to the future".

In times when the young are tempted by the quest for easy, immediate success, Lula da Silva's life provides a supreme example for all and sundry; his early years were times of abject poverty and desperation, but he did not succumb to them because of his courageous strength in adversity, his boundless energy, his great spirit, and the optimism and strength of his dreams.

Mr. President,

Mid-way through the last century, your great country dazzled the great Jewish writer, Stefan Zweig, as it has since dazzled all of us who visit it for the first time. Zweig was seeking refuge in America at a time when Europe was about to succumb to the age-old barbarity of war. Brazil enthralled him with its grandiose beauty, but mostly with the peaceful coexistence of the different races that dwelled there. "There", the admiring Zweig wrote, "man has not split from his fellow man through absurd theories about blood, race and origins". He also added, "whilst contemplating with joyful eyes the thousand forms of beauty in that new environment, I saw the future".

Brazil today, Mr. President, has achieved a considerable level of development that confirms the forecast of the person who observed it with such emotion time ago, but it has still not managed to resolve enormous problems caused by social imbalance. Now, with your inspiration and the support of your people, your much-admired country is striving to follow the hope-inspiring path to progress, based upon equity, and rejecting social exclusion.

Your approach cannot but inspire people of good will. For this reason, you can count on our support and help, so that the future foreseen by the great writer we have just mentioned, and which we all yearn for, becomes joyful reality as soon as possible.

We are coming to the end of the grand Awards presentation ceremony with which Spain expresses its hospitality, its generous heart, its admiration for the extraordinary work of the Award winners. It does so because from the dawn of history, it has known that where love of culture dwells, the chains of ignorance, darkness and fear are forever broken.

This year's Awards coincide with the commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of our Constitution, forged so that Spain would be a dearly loved place for peaceful coexistence between our wealth of different cultures and attitudes, and never a place for division, want of solidarity or discord.

Under the protection and guidance of its Constitution, Spain has brought out the very best of itself; it has grasped, with extraordinary vitality, much of its enormous potential and, more importantly, developed its human resources, one outstanding facet being the rapid, beneficial incorporation of women into every facet of society, which they had been so unfairly excluded from.

We are proud to see that our country is open-minded, modern and European, once again on a par with what the times require, able to adapt to life's inevitable changes, and able to confront the problems that inevitably arise in any community with strength and composure and to grasp opportunities for progress.

We are also pleased to see it in the vanguard of the creation of culture and of the defence of human rights, welcoming and fraternal; and we are inspired when we realise that Spain is the homeland where we feel the warmth of compassion and of hope.

Spain has never before been as free, as prosperous, as capable, and as much admired as in these times bathed in the light of our law of laws. To the world at large it has regained its status as a great nation whose history is essential to an understanding of the history of mankind.

For these reasons, on what is such an important day for me, I want to spare a thought, and express my deep gratitude, to those who made our Carta Magna a reality, to those who applied and implemented it with such faith and sacrifice; to those who inherited a society torn apart by war and then had the nobility of spirit and the heroic generosity needed to turn the Spains that chilled the heart of the great poet into the democratic Spain that we live in. They all contributed intelligently and generously to the precious, noble task of reconciliation. With the same emotions, I also recall the victims of intolerance and terrorism, who gave their lives defending their freedom and the freedom of all.

This Foundation was born of this spirit of concord, and with it, the marvellous adventure of its Awards. It is an adventure that we renew each year, one that is all the more precious for having its origins in Asturias, these lands of mountain peaks that tower as loftily as the flight of the spirit of Asturias.

Thank you.

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