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"Twenty-five years have passed since that unforgettable ceremony when we first presented our Awards. Since then, there has been not been a single day for inaction, not a single moment for discouragement. We have progressed along the road to a point hardly imaginable back in those beginnings so replete with hope."
Oviedo, 21st October 2005
I return full of hope and joy on this year when we celebrate the XXV Anniversary of our Awards - with all the splendour that we would so earnestly desire for it - to this much-loved land of Asturias of which as Spaniards we might say, recalling the words of a great poet, that 'much of what we possess is rooted here.'
Before I continue, I would like to pass on the kindest regards of the Princess of Asturias, who, as you know, has been unable to accompany us at this event, but who is nevertheless with us in her heart and in her thoughts.
Twenty-five years have passed since that unforgettable ceremony when we first presented our Awards. Since then, there has been not been a single day for inaction, not a single moment for discouragement. We have progressed along the road to a point hardly imaginable back in those beginnings so replete with hope.
We wish to continue this work with the tenacity, enthusiasm and painstakingness that have always guided us, for our initial hopes remain intact, and our dreams have never ceased to be, in the words of a beautiful poem by Cernuda, loftier than the clouds. In this uncertain and extraordinarily complex dawn of the XXI century, we are aware that the life of any organisation depends more than ever on its ability to forestall events imaginatively without losing sight of its roots and founding values.
I thank all those who have brought about this splendid situation, those who had faith in this project, those who today see the returns on their faith and trust, those who overcame weariness, disheartenment, all those taxing days, and whose dedication, effort and intelligence have yielded such exceptional fruits.
On the road towards the future, we know we are not alone, for we can now proudly say that we have the backing and the encouragement of the vast majority of Spaniards, and in particular of the Government of Spain and of Asturias, of this city council, of the patrons of the Foundation, of the Juries for the Awards, of our guardians, and of an ever-burgeoning number of other public and private institutions and organisations, who are joining us in our efforts to increase the stature of this great work of all Spaniards in the eyes of the world.
We thank the UNESCO for their declaration acknowledging the extraordinary contribution of our Awards to mankind's cultural heritage and for its decision to lend its support to events celebrating our XXV Anniversary.
We would also proclaim our special gratitude to the media, who are making and extraordinary contribution to having the Awards become acknowledged - as is our aspiration - for striving to contribute to concord between nations, for fostering cultural production at the highest echelons and of the most noble values, for being and permanent beacon of hope, a light that bathes darkness and despondency, a voice that reminds us of these old but timeless verses_
Rather than think you were born for yourself
Think you were born for the world.
Once again, this year our Awards have been conferred upon people and institutions who carry out their exemplary work inspired by these principles. We send our our warmest welcome to all of them, to the families and friends who accompany them, and to the distinguished delegations who have decided to share these unforgettable hours with us today; we thank them for being here in this ceremony that encompasses so many hopes and promises. To extol the merits of the Laureate, to compensate them for their efforts and to reflect on their lives and work is a particularly pleasant and enriching experience for me.
The Award for International Cooperation has been bestowed on French magistrate Simone Veil. Not only has she been President of the first European Parliament elected by universal suffrage but she has also carried out important missions within that Parliament.
She is also a member of France's Constitutional Council and President of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (the Holocaust). In this capacity, she works to ensure that the atrocities committed against so many millions of people and which she herself was victim to when she was deported with her family to Auschwitz are never forgotten. For informing the world of the horror is the best way to combat it: because, as has been written, when events experienced by somebody are of such a profound and dramatic nature, recall and testimony become a duty, for if life has succumbed to death, it is crucial for memory come out of its battle against oblivion victorious.
Simone Veil is convinced that the future belongs to those who can remember and thereby avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. She maintains that education for tolerance, teaching children of different cultures to live together and nations, with their different religions and origins, to cooperate are fundamental to creating new generations of women and men who refuse to repeat the horror.
Reaching the ideal, and here I quote her own words, of making Europe "a place of freedom, peace and respect for man's dignity" depends on these new generations. In Europe conceived as a model of peaceful coexistence and integration, Simone Veil's positive attitude and her Europeanism emanating faith are an encouragement to us all.
Europe also ties well into the world vision of Italian professor, political scientist and writer Giovanni Sartori, Award Laureate for Social Sciences, who has managed to confront the problems and recent challenges that Western society is facing from an open, perceptive perspective. Giovanni Sartori had the good fortune of being born in Florence, this small Tuscan paradise of beauty and intelligence, and to whose tradition of thinkers he so rightly belongs.
Our world has become ever more complex and diverse, to such an extent that it is sometimes incomprehensible to our way of thinking. We need the help of people who, like Sartori, are able to guide us through the myriad doubts and grey areas towards understanding; people who can hand us that Ariadne's thread that frees us from the bewilderment that human contradictions and limitations, cultural diversity and the pressing problems of our times have brought upon us. For, as he himself has said, "nobody takes an interest in something he does not understand."
Giovanni Sartori is a thinker who explores the world with a clarity of vision, and to whom 'nothing human is foreign to him', as the classic saying goes. Controversial issues such as the world's overpopulation, immigration, multi-culturalism, new politics, democracy, technology, the homo videns - which are some of his major concerns - have been clarified by his intelligence and his reflections.
Languages have been and will continue to be a key factor for peaceful coexistence and the coming together of human beings, a vehicle for communication and the dissemination of culture amongst the planet's different peoples. One can understand, therefore, the excellence of the work of the six European Cultural Institutes that the Award for Communication and Humanities has been conferred upon this year: the Alliance Française, British Council, Goethe-Institut, Instituto Camões, Instituto and the Società Dante Alighieri.
Rarely have the merits of communicating and humanizing been merged so intelligently and yet so practically. The languages that we human beings speak were made, we have been told so many times, to unite rather than to separate or marginalize us, to facilitate mutual understanding and to foster knowledge in order to broaden our culture and, in short, enrich our souls.
Far beyond the languages that these laureate Institutes represent, love, teach and disseminate, can be found the profoundly cultural mission that enriches us, for they also pass on values, ideals, customs, collective experience, ways of life and wide-ranging approaches to life and society. This is the other, alternative way to build Europe: the way that is wisely shaped by education and culture, and by language.
This Award for Communication and Humanities merges perfectly into the Award for Letters, which has been conferred this year upon Brazilian writer Nélida Piñon, daughter of Galician emigrants who sought new horizons for their lives through the dignity of work and the pride-tinged humility of their identity, as did so many other Spaniards, in our sister countries of America.
Her work epitomises many of the values of our Awards. It particularly embodies the values that today's ceremony is intended to highlight: peaceful coexistence between different nations born of mutual love and respect, ongoing learning not in one but in many cultures, the brilliance of a literature that is rich and that enriches others, because it is itself multi-faceted, because it has many sides and offers many messages.
This Award is being bestowed today upon a woman who is conscious of all these values, and who is perfectly aware of where her origins lie - something she has never forgotten - but who has also spread her wings in intellectual flight, opening her generous humanity to become enriched, in particular, by everything in her native Brazil, which is a further excellent example of this social and cultural merging that she filters and decanters in each of her books.
We are pleased to say today that by conferring the Award on Nélida Piñon we are also conferring it upon her country and on all of Latin America, without which the life and works of this writer could not be understood. Her Portuguese language takes centre stage today for these Awards, alongside the Instituto Camões and the Portuguese neurologist Antonio Damasio, who has been given the Award for Technical and Scientific Research.
Professor Damasio's discoveries are making a decisive contribution to the progress of Neuroscience, a discipline whose origins are solidly founded upon the brilliant work of our very own Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Since Cajal established the fundamentals of neuronal theory, the fascinating world of research into the nervous system has unveiled the organism's communication processes and has even helped us to understand the complex coexistence of reason and feelings.
As is always the case with science at the highest echelons, Damasio's studies also influence the field of abstract ideas, because he has contributed, and indeed continues to do so, to an inescapable task for the adventure of man: to know the workings of the brain, which we use to order our lives, and how the thought process is able to turn upon itself in self-contemplation. The goal has fascinated philosophers, scientists and thinkers throughout history.
Many conflicts escalate precisely because as human beings we often act contrary to common sense and ideas. This is why a better understanding of what makes man tick should help to improve the world by seeking a necessary though difficult synthesis of reason and feeling founded upon a scientific understanding of so problematical a relationship. Damasio's work on this issue takes on a fundamental significance, and his research into the human mind is indispensable if we are to understand its influence on such diseases as dementia, depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
The conferring of this Award brings to mind the memorable figure of that universal Spaniard, Asturian-born Severo Ochoa, for we are celebrating the centenary of his birth. Professor Ochoa chaired this Jury from the outset until just before his demise, helping to boost its prestige worldwide. He will always be remembered with immense gratitude and admiration for this, for his essential contributions to our knowledge of the molecular bases of life and for his commitment to scientific progress in our country.
It is precisely one of the discoveries about the human brain made by Professor Damasio that sparks our thoughts on the Award for the Arts. Art, he has said, unleashes "a neuro-physiological state of enormous coherence and harmony."
Thus, Art becomes a medium for transforming and humanising the world that surrounds us, and at the same time, a means to balance the inner life of each of us. In this respect, dance is a discipline that unites body and soul perfectly; it unites complete control of technique with sensitivity, the head with the heart, besides being a incomparable joy to watch for its audience. For these reasons, we celebrate the fact that the Award for the Arts has been bestowed this year and for the first time in its history upon two outstanding ballerinas, Maya Plisetskaya and Tamara Rojo.
Their life histories - Plisetskaya's one of maturity and total mastery, Tamara Rojo's one of dazzling youth precociously brimming with outstanding success - speak of the same struggle: the quest for perfection, the spark of genius, art converted into sublime movement and life.
Maya Plisetskaya is quite simply a legend of twentieth-century dance. Born in Russia, where music and ballet have reached the highest pinnacles, her art has remained immutable thanks to her iron will and extraordinary professional attributes despite ideological strife and family sufferings, neither of which Maya is a stranger to.
Tamara Rojo, prima ballerina with London's Royal Ballet, embodies something that was also aroused in Maya: the enormous desire to pursue a vocation unflaggingly, the quest for perfection and the will to work. The Award being conferred upon her, the impact that this Award has had, and the triumphant international figure of Tamara are a stimulus for the Spanish and are unquestionably the best foundation upon which to establish a greater focus upon the art of dance in Spain.
Great art - and dance is a great art - knows no frontiers, it is true; yet it is marvellous to see it blossom and flourish in all its glory in the artist's home country.
We have all thrilled to the sight of a young sportsman born here in Oviedo who has not only recently reached the pinnacle of his sport but also, with each victory, proudly waved the flags of Spain and of this land around the world's major racetracks. To everybody's joy, that person is now the youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion: Fernando Alonso, Award Laureate for Sports.
What stands out in his exceptional career in sport is his youth - he is also the youngest ever laureate in the history of our Awards - and above all, the care and selfless help of his parents and closest family. The tenacity and the will to win which he has fostered since he was a child has led him to the top in a tremendously demanding sport that is also so difficult to get into . Fernando Alonso has combined his intelligence, bravery and work ethic in perfect synchrony with a team of specialists of different European nationalities. Moreover, he has done so without losing his head or his naturalness along the way.
Sport becomes a great example when it is done with self-sacrifice and bravery, as is the case of Fernando Alonso. Our newly-crowned champion is one of a new generation of young Spanish sportsmen who are at the forefront of their respective sports, and who are exercising a positive influence on the habits of our society; a society that thrills to their victories with pride; one that is infected by their optimism and hope, and one which is becoming ever more convinced that constant effort, self-sacrifice are rewarded with the admiration of their rivals, of their fans and of their fellow countrymen.
As Pope Benedict XVI has said, love - always a counterpoint to man's pride - teaches us that reaching true heights consists of lowering ourselves, and that when we look towards the poor and the humble, when we ourselves are at our humblest, is when we are at our highest. This is how the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul live, and this is why we acknowledge them with the Award for Concord.
Poverty, disease, injustice and inequality are some of the most terrible ills that scourge a large part of mankind. The staunch determination of all those of us not marked by these scourges is required to do away with them, as is particularly the utmost dedication and charity of the noblest of hearts. Such hearts are, in great measure, the hearts of the Daughters of Charity, who are there wherever society most needs them, wherever in the world.
This religious community is always at hand in shelters for the most deprived, at the bedsides of the terminally ill, at the feet of battered mothers and abandoned children, in Aids, leprosy and tuberculosis hospitals, with drug-dependents, providing basic food in their food kitchens, to mention just some of the most obvious examples. Their commitment is as precious and sublime as it is difficult: to work for a world that will foster the globalisation of love and also arouse the hope that we see so often and so sadly lacking in mankind's heart.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I cannot help but remind you that this year is also the thirtieth anniversary of my father's crowning as King of Spain; the event inspired the birth of these Awards, which have since been supported wholeheartedly. I would like to remember him here, and I know that I echo the Princess' feelings, with admiration, respect and affection, those same feelings that we also express for my mother, the Queen, who has graced this ceremony like no other with her support and presence at every edition.
This is why I believe it is a particularly opportune moment to pay a tribute of acknowledgement and gratitude to H.M. the King, to whom, alongside many other Spaniards from different generations, we owe the construction of present democratic Spain.
As Spaniards, we can be justly proud of this period of our history. The self-confidence we demonstrate when we are able to organise our coexistence in peace and freedom whilst also being sensitive to the major changes that have occurred in the world, have led to the most prosperous years in living memory. It has been a phase that has transformed Spain into a country that is at long last a major participant in modernity, open to the world and admired by it, with a growing prosperity that is converging with our more prosperous neighbours. A country finally united with the European Union, that has strengthened its ties with the world as a whole, particularly in the Mediterranean basin and above all in Latin America.
A emotional remembrance is due to all those who have fallen victims to barbarity and terrorist madness, and to those who suffer endless threats and extortion, in the course of our establishing democracy. We feel profound solidarity with them all and with their families, and we pay yet one more heartfelt tribute to them.
However, the unquestionable success as a collective that the Spanish have achieved has not been the outcome of improvisation and chance. It is the outcome of admirable word, of a firm and sustained will to live in peace. These key years have passed under the inspiration, guidance and protection of the 1978 Constitution, which so many Spaniards accepted as never before, firmly exercising their sovereign rights and powers. It is an extraordinary political and legal monument, constructed with exemplary responsibility, a profound sense of state and the broadest of generosity.
The unshakeable will to construct a better Spain, the Spain of all and for all enabled a historic reconciliation, eradicating the conflict that was endemic to our recent constitutional history, and establishing the political framework for modern Spain. The constitutional pact that is the bedrock of our democratic coexistence, political and institutional stability and economic and social progress that we now enjoy was constructed with the essential understanding and contest of will of our political forces. None of this would have been possible without having the Constitution and without respect for constitutional values.
To conserve and increase this immense, inalienable heritage is a historic responsibility of present and future generations and, in short, one shared by everybody. It is also an essential heritage if we are to cater for the needs and requirements that still survive in our society, if we are to take maximum advantage of the new opportunities that unfold as this century dawns, and thereby to overcome as one the challenges that today's world throws up. These challenges range from those posed by globalisation and collective safety to those posed by migratory trends and the much-required protection of our environment.
The Crown, since the proclamation of H.M. the King, has encouraged the return to national sovereignty and constitutional agreement of the Spanish people. As heir to the throne, I am fully committed to this project for peaceful coexistence for the service of Spain. To sum up, with the backing of Crown, the Constitution offers the sturdiest framework, principles and values to enable us to successfully forge the future of Spain in a way that is shared, supportive of others and respectful of the wealth of our plurality and territorial diversity.
All these principles, all these values and ideas upon which our democracy is founded, and by extension, our parliamentary monarchy, have been and continue to be the foundation and guideline of our Awards. They will also be the way towards helping us build a better future, in the words of the following splendid verses:
Like the prayer on the wind,
Like the simple, humble voices of the grass,
Like the long word of the rain,
With the stubborn constancy of the sea on the shore.
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