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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 2007 Prince of Asturias Awards

 Oviedo 26th October 2007

Yet another year, in Autumn, we enthusiastically return to our beloved Asturias to reencounter the never-forgotten affection of its people, with the beauty of its scenery and the message of hope embodied by this solemn event; a profound, emotive event that has brought us together now for almost three decades to celebrate the triumph of good and of culture, this knowledge of Mankind by Mankind, as the unforgettable Francisco Umbral declared from this selfsame stage.

In this ceremony, we extol values that neither the passing of time nor fashions will be capable of vanquishing, because these values ennoble our lives and make them loftier.

With the joy that all this produces in us, we welcome and thank all those who accompany us here today. To the Laureates, their families and friends, to the distinguished cultural and social delegations from all round the world who have wished to share these moments with us, and also to our Foundation's Trustees and Patrons, who have bestowed their trust in us and act as a spur to our efforts.

We also wish to offer our thanks to the Juries, who have once more fulfilled the difficult task in both an independent and responsible manner, and to the national and international media which, in such numerous representation of the most prestigious journalism, have wished to be witnesses to this event.

I wish also to express some words of special gratitude to the Municipal Authorities of this city, to the Regional Government of the Principality and to the Government of Spain -who have been so supportive- for being aware of the importance that the Foundation and its Awards have for one and all. The fact is that the vast majority of the people of Spain endorse our Awards and rightly see in them a valuable cultural heritage -before the world- of a Spain which progresses relentlessly, while committed to all that encourages and elevates the intellectual and moral education of human beings.

Albert Camus wrote that some people are greater, more authentic and have more beautiful hearts than others. And make up an often invisible society throughout the world that justifies the life of all. As in previous years, this evening I have the honour of extolling through my words the life and work of some of these people who have received our Awards this year. We congratulate them all, filled with emotion, and thank them for their example.

The Award for International Cooperation has been conferred on the former Vice President of the USA and Chairman of the Board of the Alliance for Climate Protection, Al Gore, for carrying out actions with enormous repercussions committed to the preservation of the environment and for his leading role in disseminating the ever-growing conviction throughout the world that climate change is one of the threats that human beings need to address both urgently and resolutely.

This is precisely what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed in a recent report, drawn up by 600 scientists and accepted by over one hundred countries, the influence of human activity on global warming; a dangerous transformation of the environment that is a consequence of the errors and excesses -whether conscious or not- of our frequently disorderly development

We have been forewarned for a long time now by scientists, ecologists, institutions and people that are sensitive to this issue of the need to combine industrial progress with the conservation of the environment and biodiversity. For we are all witnesses -at times impotent and sadly surprised- to the growing, inexorable degradation of the planet and to the desperate situation of millions of people who are -or may become- innocent victims of this threatening devastation.

Al Gore has bravely and resolutely made every effort for all these warnings to be heard, so that we become more aware of the fact that only if we conserve this legacy handed down to us, this treasure that is our Earth, only if we avoid the degradation of our beautiful planet -our true home- to irreversible limits, shall we have fulfilled one of our major duties as human beings

Our Laureate has known how to highlight the fact that it is impossible to find solutions to this problem if we are not capable of thinking globally; since no people, culture, race or country is free from its devastating effects. If we learn to work with this vision, we shall understand how related it is to other serious evils of our time, and we shall have more of a chance to get closer to solutions that are compatible with both progress and life.

The Award for the Arts has been bestowed on the musician, singer and poet, Robert Allen Zimmerman, known to us all as Bob Dylan, a symbol for millions of people, who sing his beautiful, suggestive songs convinced that -in unison with his dreamer's cry- something might change for the better in the world. The answer is blowing in the wind, he has told us time and time again to the sound of his guitar and unmistakeable voice. The answer to so many evils that threaten human beings is blowing in the wind so that each and every one of us can capture it and feel the strength of unity, of shared will, of the courage to change.

Although it has not been possible for him to accompany us here today, we wish to remember and acknowledge the unyielding hope of this austere musician, his sensitivity and the strength of his dreams.

Dedication to others, serving juster causes as a way of life takes on greater value when what is at stake directly affects human life and, in particular, the knowledge of its biological bases as a means to solving the major problems caused by the most serious illnesses.

The two eminent biologists who today receive the Award for Scientific and Technical Research, Britain's Peter Lawrence and Spain's Ginés Morata, embody the scientific attitude of the present day, enthusiastic about as well as committed to pushing back the limits of what we as humans know as reality.

If for Albert Einstein true art and true science arose from mystery, on awarding them this prize, the Jury has highlighted the fact that both scientists have done no more -and no less- than work "on the last mystery of life", convinced of the present-day possibilities of eventually understanding the programming of living matter and, hence, the alterations that separate health from illness, life from death.

There is a basic unit in the physical support of all living beings, in the phenomena that characterise them. This finding has been fundamental for the spectacular progress of the Life Sciences over the last six decades That is why it makes sense to study simple living beings that serve as experimental models, obtaining results that are of general value The possibilities that this form of knowledge offers will continue to astound us. Such as the fact that a living being so small in size -which nonetheless is equipped with the attributes of more complex organisms, with their symmetry and their differentiated organs- has been the basis for constructing an entire genetic theory of animal design. Understanding this developmental program allows scholars to extrapolate the findings to human beings, analyze the controlled growth of body organs, discover why hundreds of types of differentiated cells may arise from one single cell, and address the lack of control caused by tumours, among other issues.

The two scientists receiving the award today exemplify the value of intelligent, lucid endeavour aimed at adding to the legacy of our knowledge the details of the formation and regeneration of complex organisms, why some cells are programmed to die so that living beings may develop, or also the way in which these age.

The fructiferous cooperation between Peter Lawrence and Ginés Morata, at Cambridge and at other centres and universities here in Spain, has contributed to the creation of a school of Developmental Biology that shines brightly in the scientific universe and illustrates the value of the spirit of collaboration, of team work, of the faithful transmission of knowledge and of shared teaching. The profound humanism manifest in their research supposes a lofty example for young researchers and makes them exceptionally worthy of the Award that we bestow on them today.

The Award for Letters has been conferred on the extraordinary Israeli writer, Amos Oz, a great defender of peace in the world. His literary work is based above all on the narrative, though also on the short story, memoirs, poetry and essays.

To open his books is to find oneself entrapped in the atmospheres he knows so well how to create, in the tales he tells us, in the diverse characters he gives life to through genuine literature and deeply moving thought. He has contributed to converting modern Hebrew into a language of culture and occupies his place within the universal literary tradition because he understands so well that literature, art -all the arts- are fields without frontiers, rivers whose waters surge from highly diverse sources and from all centuries.

Light and shadow, passion and humour, tragedy and poetry, pain and joy, reality and dreaming are the forces that illuminate his books and which move his readers. Amos Oz, all of whose writings are autobiographical, is an author intensely committed to his most immediate reality, that of his country, Israel, and what its history and present-day situation represent. Founder of the Peace Now Movement, Oz believes that "where there is life there has to be compromise, a meeting place".

He tells us that fanaticism is the most perverse of plagues, a blind force that obliges one to renounce being oneself. And to avoid this, Oz reminds us, through pages full of imagination and profound beauty, that one's own belief cannot be imposed, neither by force of arms nor with violence.

The scientific journals Nature and Science have received the Award for Communication and Humanities. Created in the 19th century, the most prestigious scientists have published their discoveries, advances, analyses and studies in their pages. Thanks to these journals, we have been informed -as the Jury has pointed out- of "knowledge of the highest degree", since they have provided a channel for the most important research studies, the results of which they have known how to transmit to the international community in the most rigorous way.

In the present day, the media face the challenge of serving society via truthful, rigorous information that must at all times be of the highest quality. What is more, public opinion often encounters serious difficulties in understanding the consequences of scientific discoveries, which on occasions, when they are not used prudently, may become sterile or incomprehensible if not explained in language that is accessible to non-specialists. For this reason, we must afford great value to the work of journals like Nature and Science, which have managed to interest -at one and the same time- research professionals and the public at large, bringing, as the Jury has stated, "science closer to life".

Nature and Science perfectly exemplify the secure direction that an advanced society may -and must- follow: drawing attention to the highest level of scientific knowledge, of knowledge per se, while at the same time disseminating it in the most rigorous, in-depth manner and making it universal.

The Award for Social Sciences has been conferred on the eminent Anglo-German sociologist, Ralf Dahrendorf. Committed to freedom and democracy, a great defender of Europe and of the fundaments that sustain its union, Dahrendorf has highlighted the historical importance and transcendence of the splendid European project for the world.

Ralf Dahrendorf holds that the principles of democracy continue to be essential for any liberal order and that its parliamentary and representative institutions signify a major conquest in the history of humanity. He also confers great importance on the process of applying democracy to a supranational organisation -as is the European Union- with the aim of avoiding the difficulties with which people express their will when many relevant decisions have been transferred to European institutions.

We regret that he cannot accompany us here this evening and hope to see him soon, well again and visiting us here in Spain. His ideas remind us of one of the deepest roots of European culture, that of Athens, and the pride proclaimed by Pericles on account of living in that Athens in which the respect for one's ancestors and traditions existed in harmony with the positive acceptance of what was novel, and where the idea prospered that everyone should have the opportunity to become what they wished to be. A society which, as he has written, loved beauty without waste and unfailingly honoured wisdom.

Europe and its culture possess a past full of encounters and clashes, of cruel wars and pacific trade relations, of examples of tolerance and of harsh inquisitorial actions, of scientific ideas coexisting alongside irrational superstitions. This complex history, enriched by numerous fundamental contributions, has progressively shaped the fascinating idea of Europe and its reality over the centuries.

This is the Europe of coexistence, of dialogue, of culture, a land crisscrossed by paths of concord and symbolised by the joy of its anthem and by the blue flag and its stars; the Europe that our admired Steiner analyses as a land made to the human scale, the land of Roman roads, Greek temples and beautiful cathedrals; which may even be traversed on foot, going simply from one café to another. In short, a Europe that bears the traces and scars of the most serious of errors, while in turn promoting the highest ideas of civilization: the impulse to establish and spread throughout the world the practice of human rights, political democracy, the freedom of individuals, the empire of law, respect for diversity, the search for shared welfare and peace, just as its founders conceived it, and a reality whose political, economic and cultural model is an example for other human communities.

This is the Europe that Dahrendorf has analysed, defended and studied in his works, which highlight the broad scope of his view and his concern that the uniting process of Europeans be based on open, cosmopolitan societies committed to solidarity and justice.

The Award for Sports has been bestowed on the racing driver, Michael Schumacher, whom we admire for his tenacity and valour, for his brilliant, intense devotion to Formula 1 racing. Extraordinary natural talents and great willpower blend together in the life of this sportsman, seven times world champion, who has been unanimously acknowledged as the best racing driver of all times in his speciality.

Once more this year, a sportsman who is still under 40 years of age, provides us with the example of his professional career and of the high levels that human perseverance can reach when guided by values such as dedication, the admirable yearning to overcome, the iron will to achieve excellence and the spirit of triumph.

The force of sportsmen like Michael Schumacher is an example -above all for the youngest among us- of the capacity of a human being to overcome the most difficult of challenges, of the benefits that come from the sacrifice and abnegation of the great champions, who, like Schumacher, strive to convert their work and that of the team that fervently joins professional forces with them into a permanent success.

But one does not become a great sportsman if one is not in possession of other values, such as those of generosity, companionship and nobleness. Triumph on the podium means nothing if the victory does not carry over onto other works that redound in the service and benefit of all. To add even greater glory to his triumphs, today we recall Michael Schumacher's dedication to others, which has been recognised by diverse organisations of a global scope, attentive to the most significant social gestures of solidarity. His donations to various humanitarian causes, as well as the fact of being the UNESCO Special Envoy for Education and Sport since 1995, constitute excellent proof of this less known, though no less valuable facet of our Laureate.

The Award for Concord has been bestowed on the Holocaust Memorial Museum of Jerusalem. This Award allows us to pay the most heartfelt tribute of respect, acknowledgement and affection to the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust, to so many men, women and children who were cruelly persecuted and exterminated. A brutal suffering that will never cease to be worthy of our most radical repulsion and to profoundly move our hearts.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum represents the living memory of an appalling human tragedy, as well as an anthem to life. It is also a call to human freedom and dignity, and a firm commitment to concord and tolerance as parameters for coexistence that cannot be renounced a those of us who claim and proclaim to be human beings.

The immense pain, the profound tragedy that the "Shoah" meant for the Jewish people and for the entire world, symbolized by Yad Vashem, constitute -in short- an unavoidable reference to the commitment of us all to human rights, to the freedom of Mankind and our inalienable dignity.

An essential commitment that we must know how to keep alive in our societies and transmit to future generations so that such atrocious acts can never be repeated, so that -together- we wipe oppression, hate, racism, intolerance and disregard for life from the face of the earth forever.

Yet another year our ship has reached a safe haven. The words hope, freedom, justice, value, beauty and gratitude come to mind as I conclude this solemn, emotive ceremony. And also the lucid, profound verses of our unforgettable José Hierro:

Though of what service are our lives, if they do not enrich the lives of others.

Our Awards are inspired by this precious thought, in extolling culture, work, endeavour and moral commitment. That is why we never forget those who need the encouragement and strength that comes from solidarity, the victims of terrorism, fanaticism, poverty and injustice.

As has been written, the desire to know, the urge to understand are engraved on the soul of the best of men and women. To awaken in other human beings the knowledge and dreams that go further than ours and to induce in others appreciation for what we love is the passionate adventure pursued by our Foundation.

And so, each year we publicly acknowledge the merits of men and women who with their lives, their work or their example have contributed to the progress of Humanity. And we do so with conviction and humility from an institution that came into being three decades ago inspired by the hope experienced in Spain regarding its recently approved Constitution; which was ratified by a vast majority of fellow countrymen and women as the basis for our political order and a wise guidebook for our coexistence.

Since then, we meet on an evening such as this in this Theatre to receive and honour men and women who come from very different, far-off places in the world, who speak different languages, and who feel part of highly varied cultures, traditions and beliefs.

They do not think alike; they could not be more diverse. But, despite their differences, we are sure that there is much that unites them: Above all, they represent the fight for Fundamental Rights, especially for people's right to life and dignity; they are capable of coexisting within this difference and consider their own diversity as a source of collective enrichment. In short, they are a living example of what we Spaniards also proposed thirty years ago now for our own country and which we have continued to build for future generations.

As Heir to the Throne, I dedicate and shall continue to dedicate my efforts to this grand endeavour. We continue to work all together, devoting our efforts to this grand endeavour of making Spain a society that is ever more solidly united around the principles and values of our Constitution.

Today, as twelve intense months of work and joy for all of us who form part of the Foundation conclude, and new tasks and new efforts commence immediately, we may once more affirm that we continue to be moved by all these ideals, the never-yielding enthusiasm to continue forging this path; a path that has never been easy, and which aims towards the highest of goals. For, when these do not exist, only the sterile footsteps of routine and the voice of that which is insignificant are to be heard.

Thank you

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