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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 2010 Prince of Asturias Awards

All of us who feel this Foundation and its Awards to be our own are filled with pride to return to this beloved land of Asturias. Oviedo these days becomes the cultural focal point of Spain in the world. And in times of intense change and uncertainty, this ceremony provides us with a beacon of serenity and values that give us strength and conviction to continue with our work.

Our Awards are now 30 years old. An already lengthy distance that we have covered with the conviction that culture is the breath of life. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the search for excellence and its praise. Moreover, through the example of our laureates, we foster the idea that a freer Humanity, devoid of injustice or violence, is possible.

And also, because we proclaim that it is necessary to achieve a better world and that we are ready and willing to fight staunchly for it, we have defended generosity, concord and tolerance from the outset. Looking back at what has already been done, we wish to humbly raise our head and pledge to go further one step further each day, since, as the poet has said “I never think I’ve arrived, even though I find myself at journey’s end".

We have been accompanied on our exciting, on-going journey by many people who are worthy of our gratitude and to whom we shall always be indebted: our Trustees and Patrons, for their constant, generous support, vision and affection; the juries, for providing their valuable criteria in the task of deciding; the Foundation’s Presidents and discreet, efficient team, who always do their utmost with enthusiasm to bring our goals to fruition; in short, so many people, some of whom have sadly left us now, who have believed in this work and have been a driving force in so many ways and from different locations.

An important handing over of the baton has taken place this year. I first wish to welcome on board the new Director, Teresa Sanjurjo. In a short time, she has already shown that she fully identifies with the values that imbue to our Foundation. Her rigour, professionalism and effectiveness deserve our full confidence for such an important role in our beloved Foundation.

I also wish to close this part of my address with a mention for Graciano García. He has deftly exercised the role of Director with extraordinary dedication and passion, from those initial daring steps, full of enthusiasm and conviction, until the maturity and prestige enjoyed today. It seems just and fitting for me to join together with the public recognition you deserve. Our affection and thanks are heartfelt and I know that you shall always stand at our side.

Let our attention now turn to this edition’s laureates. From their different activities, they show us how they live and work moved by a passion impossible to repress: the passion for life and for giving shape to a more serene, more dignified, more complete and happier reality for everyone.

Congratulations to you all for doing so, our heartfelt thanks, and welcome to our beloved Asturias, to this ceremony that we hold each autumn with immense joy, with the overwhelming warmth and support of so many people who celebrate, with us, the triumph of dedication and talent.

Richard Serra, a US sculptor with Spanish roots, has received the Award for the Arts for having dedicated his life to the creation of a work of great personality and beauty. Marked by unlimited nuances, his work stands heir to the brilliant characteristics present in history’s great sculptors, painters and architects, those who in their time followed the same path he now travels: that of authenticity, of the force of his creative passion.

For him, his sculptures are not inanimate objects, but rather beings that speak of time, space and the movement of people. Serra creates new forms and, to a certain degree, reinvents sculpture. Those who enter his monumental sculptures feel the embrace of their metal walls, grand both in size and simplicity. The roughness of the material harmonises with the smoothness of its curves, causing one to feel as if in a labyrinth, in a distinct, magical and marvellous place. Therein lies his mastery.

To be a maestro is to be, like Richard Serra, a great artist, a creator of unmistakable, solemn, generous and honest works, rooted in truth, that invite us to form part of them, to experience them with our emotions.

We turn our gaze now towards Eastern Asia, towards a civilisation of great artistic splendour that spans thousands of years. The team of archaeologists working at the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, in the Chinese city of Xi’an, has received the Award for Social Sciences. We recognise in the endeavours of the team that has undertaken this great salvage and research work the traditionally meticulous tenacity of the Chinese people, their vigour and splendour, expressed in their progressive opening-up to the outside world, in their influence on it, and in their spectacular current economic development.

With its thousands of terracotta warriors, sundry figures and objects, the tomb is a metaphor of eternity which, while not originally intending to, also establishes a magical dialogue with visitors. Since 1979, millions of people have been able to relive, in awe, the personal, age-old, mysterious history of an emperor who yearned for a refuge, a safe place for his eternal journey.

The work of the Xi’an archaeologists is one that requires extreme finesse and perfection, the result of which is both exciting and revealing, providing us with precious historical and cultural information on the China of over 2,000 years ago, a fundamental age for human civilisation.

We know that specialists working on archaeological digs always do so with infinite patience, meticulousness and care; that a deep-felt emotion resides within each discovery. We admire and pay tribute to such commitment to that knowledge, which sometimes has its origins in a tiny shard of pottery, glass or metal, with which hypotheses are confirmed and which allows the history of mankind to be pieced back together, like an immense jigsaw puzzle.

Alain Touraine and Zygmunt Bauman have received the Award for Communication and Humanities. We gratefully admire the rigour and depth of thought of these outstanding thinkers. Two wise men for uncertain times who have devoted their long-standing scientific careers to the noble cause of exploring the world and making it a better place for us humans to live in.

Representatives −as the minutes of the Jury put it− of the most brilliant intellectual tradition of European thought, their research embraces the most diverse fields, analysing and explaining the extraordinary complexity of contemporary society, its major transformations, its errors, as well as the possibilities and ways of elevating and dignifying its social, economic and cultural structures. They warn us that many of the terms of the past no longer serve to understand the present.

France’s Alain Touraine has studied post-industrial society and has reflected on the most important social and economic movements of the 20th century. He has likewise taken an interest in Latin America, denouncing dictatorships with the force of ideas. He has also focused his analysis on the processes of profound transformation generated by the economy and globalisation in order to defend human rights, dignity and democracy in the world. On more than one occasion, he has addressed these topics alone, with a great degree of independence, although never in isolation, yet paying no heed to dominant trends, which gives added stature to his work.

Poland’s Zygmunt Bauman, who survived persecution by Nazism first and Soviet Communism later, has coined the expression “liquid modernity”, which is one of the mainstays of his intellectual work, in order to unveil a totally unknown scenario, the passage of a predictable, reliable society to another that is indecipherable, in which power evaporates into global space. A time that obliges us to tread –as he has written– on thin ice. The natural habitat of human life –he hopefully declares– is uncertainty, but it is the wish to escape this uncertainty that constitutes the authentic driving force of our endeavours.

Touraine and Bauman constitute critical consciences that help us interpret the complex world in which we live. They also outline paths to follow and how to address problems which, on account of being common to all mankind, can only have global solutions.

Europe is also at the core of their reflections, and both lament its sometimes slow and hesitant steps, as they are convinced that it has such an important role to play in the world. A world in which Europe must undertake its greatest adventure: the adventure of protecting and conveying the values that it has given birth to with so much sacrifice and which it has managed to preserve over centuries of history. The values of humanism, freedom, fraternity and tolerance.

Three neurobiologists admired worldwide, David Julius, Linda Watkins and Baruch Minke, have received the Award for Technical and Scientific Research. The same emotion that artists and archaeologist feel before a new endeavour is also present in the work they carry out with their teams as they delve into the complexity of the nervous system and seek solutions to alleviate physical pain, which in its acute or chronic form so often and so seriously affects human beings.

The three doctors to whom we pay tribute today are worldwide leaders in Sensory Neurobiology. Their achievements illustrate the possibilities of molecular biology and of current neuroscientific research, a discipline that started to bear fruits in Spain with Ramón y Cajal, a source of legitimate pride.

Baruch Minke has discovered a class of “biological sensors” that adapt and regulate the flow of information coming from our senses, information that travels to our brain, where it is perceived in the form of sensations. David Julius has identified some important members of this family which, linked to specific neurons, are involved in the detection of noxious stimuli and the perception of temperature and pain. Linda Watkins’ work reveals that cells long considered to be a mere support for the neuron also contribute to the transmission of painful sensations when an injury is produced.

The contributions of Drs. Julius, Watkins and Minke take on even greater importance when considered as a whole: for the first time ever the search for painkillers that are selective and specific for each type of painful episode has been made possible, thus increasing therapeutic benefits and minimizing side effects. With their work, conventional medicine takes on a new dimension in its desire to prolong, and at the same time increase the quality of people’s lives. Thanks to these three outstanding scientists, science has thus taken a huge step forward.

Major advances in medicine also, however, owe a great deal to the spectacular progress in surgery. Organ transplants are, in this respect, one of the most effective testimonies of this constant progress. We are accordingly delighted with the conferral of the Award for International Cooperation on two organisations, The Transplantation Society and the Spanish National Transplant Organisation, which share one and the same magnificent purpose: to save human lives thanks to the generosity and solidarity that the donation of organs represents as well as to the systems of cooperation developed between specialists, medical and research centres, international bodies and countries. We express our gratitude for their dedication to such admirable, necessary work.

With almost thirty-five donors per million inhabitants –twice the average for the European Union– the Spanish National Transplant Organisation has placed Spain at the top of the world ranking in terms of transplants, a source of great pride. We can now speak of a Spanish model for transplants that has even been adopted by the European Union and which has been successfully exported to countries in Latin America.

We are likewise honoured by the international recognition received for this organisation’s work, which has proven to be a powerful stimulus for Spanish society and for its healthcare system and scientific community.

Similarly, The Transplantation Society, with over 4,000 members worldwide, is the leading international organisation that addresses the different aspects of human transplantation, such as pharmacology, medicine, research and training. Our award recognises the work of this organisation, which, since 1966, has fostered and promoted the donation of organs, has laid down clinical practice guidelines, has fostered advances in education and scientific research as well as ensuring compliance with strict ethical standards in these procedures.

Here today we wish to highlight two fundamental issues in which these organisations play an essential role: the first of these, the fight against the illegal trafficking of organs. We refuse to accept that such a degrading, cruel practice should continue to exist, against which the only possible stance is to demand solutions and intensify legal actions that put an end to this practice once and for all.

The second issue tells a happier story: the recognition of and immense gratitude towards anonymous donors, women and men who provide us all with a noble lesson of generosity and moving altruism. Through their example, they help thousands of people and dignify all human beings.

We support both organisations when they insist on the ever urgent need for donations and in their appeal for these to increase. There are still very many people who are waiting for a life-saving transplant.

We express our gratitude to the Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, this year’s Laureate for Letters, for his works, in which the history of Spain has a significant presence. Gratitude for converting his splendid fictional worlds –heirs to the oriental tradition of fables– into a melting pot of cultures: worlds in which the beauty of the stories that are told also draws the attention of readers to the urgency of always siding with peace over and above any differences in race, language or creed. In the art of storytelling, in establishing the ambience surrounding his characters’ lives, all is subtly arranged in defence of the need for coexistence and of respect for others.

In his essays, he advocates tolerance and denounces the exclusion born of the use of one’s own identity as a weapon. He also underscores how we all form part of the human adventure, and that the legacy of our forebears must merge with contemporary experiences. For Maalouf, differences must enrich and include, never isolate or exclude.

He proclaims the primacy of the values of culture and teaching as a crucial goal for this century which –he states– we have entered without a compass to guide us. Culture to provide us with the intellectual and moral tools that will enable us to know more and develop an inner life that is both more stimulating and thriving. And teaching to comprehend and appreciate the richness of human diversity in a way that translates into harmonious coexistence rather than tensions that beget violence. Because, as he claims, there are no strangers in this century, only travelling companions.

On the night of Sunday, 11th July, a thrilled Spain vibrated before an event long dreamed of: overcoming very difficult moments, our Football Squad won the World Championship title fair and square. For this reason, and on account of having been a great social and moral example through the long trek up to this exceptional summit, it has received the Award for Sports.

Until achieving the final splendid triumph, our team displayed the values for which it has justly been praised the world over: drive and determination, absolute fairplay, modesty, as well as a way of playing in which the team aspects of football grew in stature alongside enthusiasm, talent and beauty. A veritable lesson for the hundreds of millions of people who followed the team through those intense days, days of more than just sport and football, days we Spaniards shall never forget.

In prior years, I have underlined on this very stage the lofty values that the practice of sports brings with it, especially the stimulus that it represents for young people. So, this year, the model performance of the Spanish Football Squad is also the best gift that all of you –manager, players, technical staff and the Royal Federation– have offered them. Not only have you shown what can be achieved by the noble contest of sports competition, keeping up your resolve and efforts until the last minute of the last match, but you have also reminded young people how, through unity and camaraderie, through nobleness and trust, the stumbling blocks and trials of daily life can be overcome, never losing hope or self-control when one has to struggle day to day, each one of us doing the task that falls to each.

You have formed an exceptional group: a manager, Vicente del Bosque, who brought level-headedness, discretion and modesty, in addition to his decisive technical contribution. And a set of extraordinary players in whom the quality of your football is on a par with the high quality they have shown as human beings. You belong to a formidable generation of Spanish sportsmen and women in so many disciplines and categories that has made us a sporting power worldwide. You are the young, ambitious, capable Spain, lacking in complexes, unyielding, a demonstration that the young people of present-day Spain are ready to aspire to the highest of goals.

What’s more, on those days, you made us feel –in our streets, squares and homes– emotion and pride in being Spanish, in belonging to a great nation.

For all this, we express to you today our gratitude, and with this award, besides the admiration and applause of this theatre, we also pass on to you the recognition, joy and applause of all of Spain.

The giving of the Award for Concord to an organisation like Manos Unidas makes our awards gain in stature and take on their deepest meaning. Manos Unidas is a institution beloved by Spaniards that came into being 50 years ago now when a group of women belonging to Acción Católica responded to the campaign against hunger promoted and undertaken by the World Health Organisation.

With the passing of time, 40,000 volunteers, 71 branches, action programmes in countries in Africa, America and Asia, the support of hundreds of projects, et cetera, constitute some of the figures that endorse the actions of Manos Unidas. Its aims highlight the needed, useful humanism of this institution: the all-out fight against hunger and poverty, patient work in support of the education of the most needy, the social promotion of people, with special attention to women, agricultural development and healthcare.

Today, we also wish to manifest our gratitude to three worthy groups of people making up this institution and making it grow extraordinarily in stature: the missionaries that devote their lives to so many people wallowing in the most absolute neglect. The volunteers, in whose actions the best of human behaviour flourishes. And all those who contribute to making this desire to give of oneself a tangible reality that characterises the work of Manos Unidas.

At this ceremony, we always encounter that beautiful, meaningful word, concord, which sums it all up in an ideal way, which attracts progress and facilitates coexistence, which, in short, makes Humanity better.

Thank you, therefore, to the colossal chain of “joined hands” at Manos Unidas - . Working hand in hand to help others. Working hand in hand to heal, feed and educate. Working hand in hand simply to save. May your joined hands never come asunder.

Ladies and gentlemen, our laureates have spoken of beauty, dignity and sacrifice, of effort and generosity. They enable us to extol the value of merit. Let us underscore in their work, in their so rich and varied experiences that which has most value for us as an example and guide, to thus keep up the enthusiasm and hope that is so necessary at this difficult crossroads for humanity that we are living through.

Spain has proven to itself on many occasions throughout history, with the admiration of one and all, that it knows how to overcome the most crucial moments. It now has to do so once more, tackling the causes and consequences of a process that is seriously affecting its economy and welfare; when, at the same time, changes of enormous import of geo-political, economic and strategic order are being produced. And it has to do so once more trusting in its talent and fortitude, with faith in our capacity to prevail.

In this way, we shall manage to build, with hope in the future, an economy that is both more competitive and more efficient, one which does not flee from the risk of enterprise and innovation, agile to adapt to the speeded-up changes that we are experiencing and which is capable of generating employment. A society of solidarity and inclusion, one in which so many people without work know that their situation is only transitory, never one of despondency without end.

Times of crisis also force us to redefine projects and ways of living. It is during difficult times when people must express the stature of their ideals, their lucidity and their great spirit most clearly. Let us afford greater vigour and drive to our public life. Let us renew our behaviour and change our attitudes. Let us once more generate excitement and trust in projects that unite and bring us closer and closer together.

The path requires our institutions to be strengthened so that they can structure the solutions society seeks and demands. However, we must also seek moderation where there has been excess; ethics where there has been abuse so as to act realistically, courageously and scrupulously on the basis of integrity, effort and the culture of a job well done.

Let us stand together to strengthen these convictions and take advantage at this time to channel all our capacities more efficiently. The great progress made in recent decades thanks to the contribution of Spanish society as a whole and, especially, past generations, must spur us on now towards the future.

Because these generations taught the younger ones –and the whole world– how they did it. Ortega y Gasset said that it is only possible to advance when one looks far ahead and it is only possible to progress when one thinks big. Spaniards of today have it in our hands to show that we have not only learned that great lesson of national responsibility, but that we can once more be an example of aptitude, self-improvement and greatness. They did. I am convinced that we who believe in the great reality of Spain can once more achieve it. Have no doubts regarding this. I certainly don’t.

Thank you.

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