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Convinced a less threatened, more tolerant and fairer world is possible, and that life is a magnificent gift and a unique opportunity to do good, I return to this beloved Asturias and this historic city of Oviedo, profoundly grateful to those who make these hours of hope possible. Events as charged with sincerity, symbolism and enthusiasm as today?s contribute to moving us closer to this world we ever aspire to.
This year´s ceremony takes on a new, touching meaning for me, as my wife, the Princess of Asturias accompanies me for the first time. We joined hands in matrimony five months ago today - a step we both desired towards building a home, forming a family, and sharing the precious wish to serve Spain wholeheartedly, with loyalty towards our history and commitment towards the future of our society.
You will understand, therefore, how words fail me today, how I am moved as I express these ideas, and as I also remember that the Princess of Asturias deeply loves this land, where she was born and where she lived the decisive, unforgettable years together with her family and friends.
However, our happiness, which we would also wish for everyone, does not mean that we forget, the tribulations that life in society confronts us with, often as a result of the fanatical, inhuman actions of groups lacking all moral order, creating hate and malice in its purest form, threatening life in peace and the very existence of millions of people on every continent. This is how terrorism in all its ramifications, guises and links becomes one of the greatest threats to our present and future.
Of all the painful memories, none is so etched in our minds as the horrific terrorist attack in Madrid, last March 11th, which stained the peaceful coexistence of Spaniards with blood in such a deadly and brutal way, and sparked an immense, heart-rending movement of solidarity both within Spain and beyond. Today, we do not want to forget the long list of victims that terrorism leads to throughout the world, and would make a special mention of so many fellow Spaniards who have suffered and continue to suffer its consequences.
To confront these terrorist threats, we can rely on the firm commitment to fight with the efficacy provided by the tools of democracy and the strength of our convictions, which include the protection and defence of the values, assets and ideals that define us as a free and democratic society. This is all based upon the solidarity and loyal support that every victim of intolerance deserves and the most profound gratitude towards those who are brave enough to risk their lives to save those of others.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It will soon be twenty-five years since the launch of this marvellous project of the Awards bearing my name. Please allow me to again proclaim my faith in it, and to acknowledge and thank all those who ensure - year after year - that we come together at this autumn meeting in Asturias with our greatest legacy for their painstaking efforts.
Our laureates, who are already part of this legacy, accompany us on stage. They receive their Award in their own right or as representatives of different organisations, and all of them are the symbol of our greatest aspirations and desires, of our rejection of violence and oblivion, of our need to assert our confidence in freedom and our ability to defeat despair and fear, as well as of our will to extol unstinting work, creativity and our profound desire for concord.
Claudio Magris, the Italian writer and lecturer, one of the most important of contemporary Germanists, has been granted the Award for Letters. The creations of his towering intellect - the fruits of his immense cultural knowledge - encompass the essay, the novel and the travelogue, forming a unique intertwining of genres that is steeped in Europeanism and an extraordinary clarity of thought and expression.
Though closely linked to the heterogeneity of his native Trieste, he turns his piercing and intense scrutiny on Europe, using literature to transform the uncertainty and perplexity of human existence into a refusal to accept disillusion and a vindication of utopia.
Magris argues that mankind has a pressing need to live in hope in a world in which darkness doggedly threatens to blot out the light. However, for Magris this aspiring to hope is never ingenuous; it is not spawned of blindness to evil, but rather of the inevitable experience of suffering, of acceptance of it, and of the absolute need to rise above it. To this end, he propounds a lucid interpretation of history which, though pointing to the horror and barbarity in its course, also shows us the major breakthroughs in all facets of our existence born of ceaseless scientific progress and the increasing scope of human rights.
You cannot fail to hear the reverberations of his deep-rooted love of life, his defence of the memories of the millions of victims of totalitarianism, his dispassionate understanding of what we really are. The compassionate, free spirit that pervades his books from beginning to end cannot fail to rub off on you.
The Award for Technical and Scientific Research has been bestowed on five great scientists who are world leaders in research on the complex group of diseases known as cancer.
They are Spanish-born Joan Massagué, Britain?s Tony Hunter and the Americans Judah Folkman, Bert Vogelstein and Robert Weinberg. In granting this Award, the Jury also wished to acknowledge "the efforts of so many scientists throughout the world in their struggle to prevent and treat cancer", at a time of hope for oncogene research, a prelude to what we hope will soon be the final victory over this disease.
The study of gene changes leading to cancer, the mechanisms causing metastasis, identifying cell growth inhibitors, new anti-tumour drugs, a better understanding of the molecular basis of the disease and the discovery of key enzymes that lead to cancer are some of the fundamental lines of research pursued with tenacity and dedication by our laureates. They have made major discoveries, thanks to which essential aspects of human biology have been successfully deciphered and understood, and advances in the treatment of the disease have been made. In doing so, they show us the noblest side of science, a side which moves towards an ever-greater and better understanding of reality and towards the application of such knowledge to the alleviation of human suffering.
The complexity of the problem and its enormous importance demands that research of the type they carry out be done by joining forces and cooperating at an international level. The presence of Doctor Massagué is a stimulus to redouble the Spanish contribution to this momentous, planet-wide task. Spanish science and technology have progressed greatly in recent decades, but we must strive harder to contribute to the fight against the many ills that afflict mankind, for which science can provide solutions. The basis for such an undertaking is solid and firm, for Spain has never had a generation of such able, well-trained young scientists who are so well-linked to international academic circles as it has at present. Spanish society must understand that success is assured if we can support our science by providing it with the necessary means. Our future depends to a great extend on this.
This year, the Award for Social Sciences has been granted to Paul Krugman, the American economist, particularly for his contribution to the theory of international trade and economic development, but also for his approach in his books, essays and articles to economic inequalities.
Doctor Krugman is one of his generation?s most brilliant economists. He has managed to achieve the perfect combination of academic discipline and an ability to communicate his ideas to a wider reading public, as witnessed by the success of his twenty books and his work as a columnist in prestigious international media publications. In his articles, which have already become essential reading, he astutely denounces exploitation and privilege, and does so in a precise, clear style that adds even further weight to his ideas.
Dissident and committed, Paul Krugman defends the idea that an economy should first and foremost fight against social injustice and inequality, and the need for there to be people with an active conscience in support of the most needy. "The free market", he has said, "is a useful tool but not a religion". An ever-more sustainable welfare state should be a vital, key priority for all societies that seek to effectively confront the challenges of globalisation in a new century that sets its sights on achieving balanced and fair development.
Journalism of the most vivid and profound type has been the protagonist of our Awards on a number of occasions. This is once again the case with the bestowing of the Award for Communication and Humanities on Jean Daniel, the French journalist of Algerian descent. Combining the precision of sharp, effective criticism with a tone of serenity and commitment founded upon understanding, Jean Daniel has remained faithful to values of independence and humanism that set him apart in the world of international journalism and place him alongside distinguished and decisive intellectuals of the past century, such as Albert Camus and André Malraux.
Despite the difficulties generated in an environment of such complexity and self-interest, Jean Daniel has lucidly argued that informative, socially-committed journalism should not be confused with public spectacle and the merely audiovisual, and that truthful information is quite the opposite to certain messages, described in his own words as `perverse and frightening´, that the mass media sometimes serve up to us.
The example of Jean Daniel, a journalist of our times and for our times, can serve as an invaluable aid in a commitment - that should unite us all - to lay the foundations to sustain a more educated and learned society, in which the media enables citizens to access truthful information that provides the means to form independent opinions and criteria. The Award for International Cooperation bestowed upon the European Union´s Erasmus programme brings us back to Europe and its culture and - more importantly - to our young. Few firmly established projects are as deserving of this Award as this pan-European programme for educational exchange. Two thousand universities from thirty countries are involved in it. As the Jury has pointed out - it is "one of the most important projects in international cooperation in the history of Mankind". The facts and figures regarding the educational, cultural and social benefits of such an ambitious programme, speak for themselves as regards the wisdom and foresight of a project that reflects, like no other, the ideals of peace, solidarity and integration at the heart of the project for the construction of Europe. Since its launch in 1987, two million young Europeans have had the opportunity to study in another European country, learning its language, freely communicating with lecturers and fellow-students alike, sharing their customs and cultures. One would be hard-pressed to imagine a system that contributes in such an efficient and exciting way to fostering a sense of belonging and the consolidation of an awareness of European citizenship. The success of the Erasmus Programme ratifies the immense benefits that an awareness of one´s own and others´ idiosyncracies, contact between different languages and cultures and an understanding of differences provide for our co-existence within Europe. In short, it has highlighted the paramount importance that this exchange of experience in an ever more receptive world has on the character building and the broadening of horizons of our youngsters. Once again, education and culture are shown to be irreplaceable for coexistence and mutual understanding as tools for increasing people?s opportunities and also as factors for integration and social peace. Human qualities and sincerity have always validated the sublime value and exemplary nature of art. Such is the case of Spanish musician and guitarist Paco de Lucía, who has been granted the Award for Arts because of the universal nature of his work, his creativity, its genuine character- which is both innovative yet also respectful of the essence of Flamenco, the essential art of Andalusian culture, which is so universal yet such a part of us. The sounds and rhythms of the guitar of Paco de Lucía, his loyalty towards tradition yet at the same time his originality and heterodoxy, have converted his versions of the works of Albéniz, Falla, Granados, Turina and Joaquín Rodrigo into glorious musicality and beauty, brilliantly merged into a fusion of foreign rhythms and themes. This is so much the case that much of his music is now part of the collective memory. Dozens of solo guitar albums and countless joint recordings alongside other great maestros of Flamenco art - whom he has been a generous and outstanding collaborator with - are an endorsement of his work, a further hallmark of which is the influence he has had on the training of performers from abroad.
Paco de Lucía has become a maestro admired by musicians from around the world and particularly by young Spanish musicians. They admire, as we all do, the revolutionary nature of his interpretation, expressed with brio, tempo and polish, with unique inspiration and virtuosity, born of extraordinary innate qualities which hold all and sundry in awe, and which a great poet expressed beautifully when he said that Paco de Lucía was the first artist to express protest, insomnious memory and anger through the Flamenco guitar - an all the more difficult, awe-inspiring and beautiful instrument in the wake of Paco de Lucía.
The Award for Concord has been bestowed on the way of all ways, the Way of Saint James, a time-honoured route forged by millions of pilgrims who over the centuries have travelled it in search of transcendency, communication, and a meaning to life, spurred on by a profoundly spiritual aim - to visit the place where the tomb of the Apostle James is widely believed to be located.
A symbol of fraternity between peoples and people from around the world, we would go as far as to say that the Way was the first joint European project, the first undertaking in which people from many different walks of life converged upon a single path, enriching our lands with words, buildings, customs, foodstuffs, life styles, legends and songs, which pilgrims brought with them and left amongst us, like some fecund seed.
Such an incessant merging of cultures and languages, such a peaceful, mutually supportive, continuous coexistence of travellers from wide and far, whose pilgrimages brought forth a shared will for brotherhood amongst people, constitutes a very early example of human concord, of a harmonious relationship which feeds off all that unites us and relegates whatever stands between us to the background.
For those who set off along the Way knew, just as those of us who do so now also know, that it is a two-fold journey: a physical one and a spiritual one, the outcome of which is that on the Way to Saint James one experiences and learns companionship, solidarity, sacrifice, dialogue between diverse languages and cultures, and, above all, a discovery within oneself that only the great spiritual undertakings can provide. In times of wholesale destruction and self interest, of selfishness and of differences, the pilgrim to Santiago does not believe in frontiers; he sets off along the Way not only to find himself again but also to speak freely and openly with his fellow pilgrims and with all those human beings who he will meet in the course of a route replete with learning experiences.
To still possess this path of infinite dialogue and understanding is a marvellous gift made by history to Spain and to the citizens of the world at large.
In a year when the Olympic Games have been staged with great success in Athens, the Award for Sports has been granted to an extraordinary athlete who triumphed there magnificently. That athlete is Hicham El Guerrouj, of Morocco, admired throughout the world and rightly loved in his own country, where his exemplary life and his sporting triumphs are heralded as a shining indication of a more dynamic and prosperous Morocco, which we also wish for them.
There is no all-round sportsman without values; victory is worthless without generosity; sports means nothing if the strength of example and the desire to serve society do not underlie the desire to compete and to play fair. These criteria combine in the figure and life of El Guerrouj, whose recent 1,500 metre and 5,000 metre victories at the Athens Olympics, a feat equalled only once in the history of the sport, set the final seal on a career marked by victories and launched at the very early age of nineteen. This world champion - already acknowledged as the best middle-distance runner in the annals of history and one of the best athletes of all time - has since taken many, highly productive pathways. Furthermore, these victories and his selfless, tenacious, straightforward nature have earned him another great personal triumph - the triumph of his generous, dedicated work for the most needy. A UNICEF Good Will ambassador, he donates a fair part of his prize money to charity work, with children and the very young being the first to benefit. These children, in turn, hold him in fervent admiration and have an enormous desire to emulate him. The high moral example that elite sport epitomises and always should epitomise is magnified in the case of this sportsman and exceptional human being whom we pay tribute to today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
For yet another year, we draw this Awards Presentation Ceremony to a close filled with joy and, despite the challenges and uncertainties of our times, with confidence in a better future for mankind. Here, in our homeland, we Spaniards have built up in recent decades and with enormous sacrifice, with understanding and generosity, one of the fairest, most prosperous and free societies in the world, and one of the most advanced in the defence of human rights, which we are rightly proud of.
We are fully aware that these achievements have never before been reached in our history. For this reason, he have freely and repeatedly stated that the finest adventure we wish to experience is to continue along the same path, united in our differences and, as was proclaimed in Ancient Greece, with "daring confidence in freedom". As Spaniards, we wish to follow this path, facing our future with the joy and the confidence of knowing that there will be no rest in the incessant search for further victories of understanding and concord.
Backed by these convictions, as the twenty-first century begins, we look towards new, promising horizons, guided by the idea that the united peoples of Spain are the greatest guarantee of stability and the progress of all. In the fascinating but difficult challenge of living in a globalized, extraordinarily competitive and rapidly changing world, we wish to continue to have a place concordant with our history, in order to make our contribution to achieving wide-ranging peace, fairer development, and the rapprochement of, and dialogue between, people and different cultures.
We are very much aware that these are not objectives to be achieved without great sacrifice, without a firm will and without a fresh and lucid vision of the state of the world. Despite these difficulties, we should acknowledge that the greatest failure would be not to try, for the dangers that threaten us are both real and serious. Let us not forget, as Claudio Magris reminds us in one of his most perceptive works, that Mankind needs utopia so that it does not give in accepting things as they are. For the destiny of every man and of History itself is similar to Moses´, who did not reach the Promised Land, but did not let that stop him walking tirelessly towards it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When we meet again, we will start the celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of our Awards. From this moment onwards, I wish to wholeheartedly thank the support we are receiving from institutions, organisations and individuals so that this celebration has the impact it deserves, and so that our Awards continue to be, as a beautiful poem penned in these lands says, `like a tree that grows on hope, that staves off the lightning, that frightens off the icy winds of time; a tree under the shadows of which we can feel the new leaves after winter, the first fruits of summer and which hoards the memories of all that we admire´. A tree which henceforth will also receive the cares and the dedicated support of my wife, Letizia, the Princess of Asturias.
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