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Speech by HRH the Prince of Asturias at the 2013 Prince of Asturias Awards Ceremony

At this time and place many memories and lessons come to mind each autumn. Memories that make us think, learn, discover and grow in terms of ideals and values which move us and strengthen our faith in humankind. I am referring, of course, to the words, images, books and feelings we zealously guard at the Foundation as the most precious of treasures, that we wish to preserve so as to share them without bound.

We meet once again to present our Awards to the Laureates whose work motivates us. It is a great privilege to see them assembled here at this celebration so significant and highly valued in Asturias and beyond its borders.

Welcome, therefore, to this land, accustomed to maintaining with an iron will the values that have enabled it to progress while always managing to remain hopeful even in critical situations.

Today our Laureates receive well-deserved honours, for which we first and foremost congratulate them all. They also receive our gratitude, because through their example they remind each of us that we must assume our responsibilities with a sense of duty.

In turn, by acknowledging in them the best of science, culture, solidarity and sport, we enrich our cultural heritage and offer an image far removed from the pessimism that so often holds us back from a better future.

We also wholeheartedly thank our trustees and patrons, the media and the people whose presence here contributes to the significance of this event and, in short, to all who support our goals.

As the Inca Garcilaso already stated more than 400 years ago from magical Peru: “There is but one world”. The work of the Foundation, summed up in each edition of our Awards, is perhaps the best example of our desire to open up and take part in that world, whose diversity is actually an opportunity –an opportunity for gathering and solidarity, for understanding, dialogue and cooperation–, never a problem nor an obstacle.

This evening, to a certain extent, this theatre proudly stands as a beacon of knowledge, wisdom and tolerance, and our greatest desire is for everyone, especially the young, to let themselves be guided by the excellence shining forth from this wonderful group of people.

Let us now learn a little more about our Laureates’ merits.

1. - The Award for the Arts has been conferred on Michael Haneke. Filmmaker, screenwriter and playwright; in short, a person in whom an acute artistic sensitivity and a profound insight into the reality –and complexity– of human nature converge. That is why, perhaps, in addition to unanimously applauding him, the critics have dubbed him the ‘poet of the cinema of discomfort’.

There is a plethora of adjectives extolling the ethical and artistic intensity of his work: his vision is keen; his analyses, relentless; his discourse, consistent; his technical mastery, extraordinary; and his narrative pace and creation of suspense, masterful.

All thanks to an innovative talent which, by evocatively revealing the darker side of the human condition, has created a novel, overwhelmingly beautiful and eerily effective form of representing the world via the big screen

A form that makes us think, moves and unsettles us, obliges us to seek answers, leads us to question our very nature, how we live, what we do in our daily lives. In short, echoing Godard’s words, Haneke’s cinema is “a thought that forms, a form that thinks”.

2.– The Dutch sociologist Saskia Sassen has received the Award for Social Sciences. A specialist in the study of migratory flows and the role of large cities in the global economy, she coined the term ‘global city’: that city which, according to Sassen, is a frontier zone.

Her interest also focuses on the mobility of labour and capital and the effect this mobility has on people and countries. Sassen maintains that historical frontiers have faded in favour of those created within global cities: virtual frontiers, built with ethereal elements such as large-scale trading and financial transactions.

Committed to her time, she does not hesitate to talk of the serious problems that globalization has caused: growing unemployment in some areas and the ensuing creation of precarious employment in others, immigration, impoverishment of the population, the desperate situations encountered in so many cities, making them uninhabitable.

Saskia Sassen both alerts and advises us as to how to improve the lives of millions of people who, day in, day out, suffer the effects of dealings not of their making and far beyond their control, even though these activities may be taking place in their own city, in their own neighbourhood, in these cities which have become frontier zones; cities which have, she states, a discourse we sometimes fail to listen to, but that nonetheless is directed at us.

3.– The US photographer Annie Leibovitz has been granted the Award for Communication and Humanities. The art of photography finds in her person not only a universal photographer who has created an striking collection of portraits of the greatest figures of our time, but also someone who has pursued her work with the greatest intensity and utmost aesthetic sense.

The work of our Laureate is linked to the major media in the US. Photographs we all recall and personal snapshots; photographs of world famous celebrities and members of her own family; everyday objects; landscapes of some indeterminate place... all become a stunning display in Leibovitz’s photos, a sculptural image, full of beauty.

In addition to capturing the essence of the subjects in her portraits, she envelops them in a truly special and unmistakable ambience. And she does so with a style that has created a school of its own, revealing her own particular outlook on life, her concerns, her interests, her tastes.

Someone once wrote that film is a miracle that can be seen. In Leibovitz’s works, photography is also like a miracle: Moments captured with her camera that become eternal displays of sensitivity, beauty and love.

4.– The physicists Peter Higgs and François Englert and the European Organization for Nuclear Research –CERN– have received the Award for Technical and Scientific Research. We have to go back to 1964 to understand the importance of the work undertaken by Higgs and Englert, although their theses were not confirmed until July last year.

Peter Higgs, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Edinburgh and François Englert, who holds a similar Chair at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, worked independently during those years but simultaneously formulated the existence of a subatomic particle at the origin of the mass of other particles, the so-called “Higgs boson” or “scalar boson”.

François Englert repeatedly reminds us, with generosity and humility, that he carried out his work in the company of the late Robert Brout, whose widow accompanies us here this evening and to whom we extend a particularly warm greeting. Back then, Englert and Peter Higgs described the symmetry breaking mechanism in the field of quantum field theory, thus providing a key to completing the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

These theories, analyses and data are extremely difficult to understand for the lay person. However, we are all basically aware that they are critical in the furtherance and progress of knowledge.

When CERN proved the existence of the boson last year –recreating conditions similar to the Big Bang– we beheld the grandeur and significance of these theories and realised we had been made privy to the greatest discovery in the history of the understanding of Nature, a discovery which moreover confirmed current physical theories such as Einstein's theory of relativity.

We are talking about Science. We are also talking about a model international organization, CERN, constituted by 20 member states, including Spain, a fact we are very proud of. Its facilities have witnessed some of the most interesting research and discoveries in recent decades, the consequences of which are of high social value, as CERN’s ultimate goal is knowledge and, in short, to improve the quality of human life.

The same spirit which shone in the life and mind of Albert Einstein also underpins the excellent work carried out by CERN. As he said, “We live in the world when we love, and only a life lived for others is worth living.”

5.– Spain’s Antonio Muñoz Molina has been distinguished with the Award for Literature. His prose is powerful and precise, while his outlook is melancholy, reminiscent of Cervantes. He also stands out for his distinctive sense of narrative pace. Reading Muñoz Molina is an unforgettable experience. With realism and descriptive power, he imbues his prose with the conviction that literature can better the lives of human beings; that literature shields us from so much malice and helps us enthusiastically confront everyday life, with all its longings and enigmas; that literature alleviates and rewards us, shelters and protects us.

As his much admired Primo Levi wrote: “[…] by living and then writing about and pondering these events, I have learned many things about the world”. And that kind of learning appears at every turn in Muñoz Molina’s books; in every sentence, with every character, in the wake of a passion for literature that courses through their pages.

As stated by another great man of letters, the Portuguese writer Miguel Torga: “Giving without asking for anything in return is the only gift of the gods within the reach of humans”. That is the task Antonio Muñoz Molina has so generously and –I believe– inescapably devoted himself to: to bringing us all the greatness of his beloved Mágina, all his love for humankind and solidarity with the most downtrodden, alongside a feeling of gratitude for the sacrifices of our forebears and rage over our failures. All so human, yet magical at the same time.

6.– The Award for International Cooperation has gone to Germany’s Max Planck Society, which comprises a network of 80 scientific research institutions and enjoys an extraordinary reputation.  Dozens of Nobel Laureates work and conduct research there and have done so throughout its history, as is also the case of some brilliant young Spanish scientists and our beloved Juan Cirac, who was distinguished here some years ago.

As with other major scientific institutions, like CERN, the activities carried out by the Max Planck Society always look to the future –so essential in scientific research– while remaining true to a tradition that has afforded it enormous international respect.

The researchers at the Max Planck Society know they form part of a respected institution that boasts state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and, more importantly, a high degree of autonomy. Besides being extremely efficient, it is also selective, rigorous, demanding, flexible and right on the cutting edge. These are, without a doubt, the keys to the excellence and success of its scientific achievements; it is a mine of knowledge and progress.

7.– José María Olazábal has been granted the Award for Sports. Here this evening we recall with special emotion –as we know he does– Severiano Ballesteros. Ballesteros was a teammate, friend and teacher to Olazábal, who, on hearing the jury's decision, stated how proud he feels to join the roster of Laureates this evening, especially because his much respected and cherished Seve has featured on that same list since 1989.

Olazábal’s sporting victories on major golf courses around the world had their high point in the 2012 Ryder Cup, when he captained the European team with an extraordinary capacity for motivation and leadership. These successes are the result of many years of effort and dreams, as well as –we know– a great deal of suffering, overcome thanks to a spirit of sacrifice and willpower that are part of the cumulus of human qualities we all recognize in him.

Olazábal is, thus, a role model for the all-round athlete, whom we congratulate here today for his triumphs and, above all, for the perseverance and strength he has shown. Thank you maestro, and not just for being a golfing maestro.

8.– The Spanish Organization for the Blind, the ONCE, has received the Award for Concord. This recognition has thrilled the people of Spain, as the ONCE not only has a long track record of efficacy and work well done in our country, but also the respect and affection of our society.

They like to sum up all their efforts in a single word: hope. Hope which has led this unique, ground-breaking organization to serve as a model of social inclusion for dozens of countries, giving rise to initiatives and formulas for the integration of people with disabilities in over 25 states in America, Africa and the European Union.

To name just one of the many possible examples, let us recall that many thousands of children with severe visual impairment can now receive an education thanks to the ONCE’s educational projects in Latin America.

This is but a mere fraction of the work the ONCE and its foundations carry out and the goals they continue to achieve. Exceptional work, solidly built up over 75 years with great effort, love and always… hope.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of July last, a district of Santiago de Compostela, Angrois, gave all the people of Spain a lesson in courage and solidarity; one of great humanity. No sooner had that terrible train accident occurred, its residents immediately went down to the railway lines to save lives; to help the injured and assist the emergency services; to comfort the relatives of the casualties.

Some days later, the Princess and I were deeply moved upon hearing their story: with a heavy heart, they described their ordeal in detail and humbly acknowledged to us that they had only done their duty as human beings and as citizens. I am convinced that any village or town in Spain would have acted in the same way as Angrois in equally tragic circumstances… examples abound. However, this in no way diminishes the great merit of their attitude and the exemplary value of their actions.

I have commenced this final part of my speech with the example of this small Galician village as a reference, as a stimulus to address the pessimism, frustration and mistrust that affect many Spaniards today. It is not hard –and I say this with humility– to understand and respect the feelings and reasoning that motivate this frame of mind in each individual. However, we cannot remain indifferent or do nothing; we must react.

Today is a day that I would therefore like to encourage us all –and I know it is not easy– to overcome that mindset. We need the efforts and collaboration of all... but what we really need is to restore the hope and confidence that underlies any successful endeavour, whether individual or collective, as in the many successes we have achieved in the recent decades of our history.

At the end of my speech last year, I stated that we needed to promote a collective consciousness that valued all that is positive in us, that recognizes our capabilities and strengths and enhances our self-esteem. Without doubt, Spain boasts great material assets with which to face our difficulties. However, we often forget that the most solid asset –the asset of greatest value we possess– is precisely our people, Spanish society as a whole, a society which is demonstrating that this is so through its behaviour during these truly difficult years.

The men and women of Spain have faced adversity with great courage and have shown a capacity for sacrifice beyond question. Many Spaniards, millions in fact, struggle every day to get by with honesty, effort, courage and humility; they are the ones that truly make Spain a great nation, one that is worth living in and loving, and one worth fighting for. Spanish society is thus once again providing an example of maturity, responsibility and civic awareness that it is only right and proper to recognise in the highest degree.

We are not, however, in the Spain that saddened Unamuno; in the country which, as he said, “each lives alone amidst others”. Solidarity is very present. So many Spaniards are devoting a portion of their time to helping others; and there are also many young volunteers who have flocked to the flag of social commitment.

All the social institutions, public and private alike, are turning to those in greatest need and in greatest suffering. While within families, the elderly are setting a great example of generosity by sharing the efforts of a life full of sacrifices with the younger members.

Nor, thankfully, do we live in a society in which insurmountable pessimism has taken hold, as at other times in our history. Public affairs are debated in civil society; institutions and forums are created with the aim of contributing ideas, proposals and more in a constructive spirit. It is not a society indifferent to the management of matters of general interest, nor to our future. We have a living society, a society with a pulsing heart.

I firmly believe, moreover, that the fraternal feelings generated over many centuries of coexistence are very present among us; centuries of sharing deep historical and family ties, so many emotions collectively suffered or enjoyed together. Feelings, in short, of respect, esteem and affection –of friendship– which have shaped us and which we must ever preserve and nurture, at all times, over and above tensions, discrepancies and disagreements.

Spanish society has set down firm roots in democracy and freedom, it rejects violence and intolerance and has been able to integrate into its ranks people of different religions, languages and customs, many of whom today feel proud to have achieved the dream of becoming a Spanish citizen. We are a society true to our European vocation, proud of our Latin American dimension, aware of our place and our responsibility in the world… a world we are open to.

We also live with a profound desire to progress and adapt to the demands of the times. Society demands rigorous reflection so as never again to commit unacceptable errors and excesses, with the firm desire to build a future based on rigour, trustworthiness, effort and honesty. A future of solidarity, based on strong ethical principles, in which integrity is rooted within our collective life and the management of our resources.

We thus have many reasons, ladies and gentlemen, for surmounting adversity. To do so, we can count on the strength of Spanish society and its determination to overcome difficulties as the best guarantee for our future. We can count on the aspirations and hopes of our citizens as the best hope for Spain.

A nation that millions and millions of citizens have built over the centuries and that today, all together in a shared project, we have the responsibility to carry forward, in an ever unfinished endeavour. A nation that has never wavered in the face of adversity or renounced any of its dreams. A nation whose history is critical to understanding and explaining the history of Humankind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I now bring to a close this ceremony replete with memories and emotions. Today is a day that strengthens our bond and commitment to the values that have at all times enabled mankind to progress and to the highest feelings defining humans.

The work of our Laureates and the example of the greatness and dignity of the citizens of a small village in Galicia –a great exemplary Spanish village– both comfort and encourage us. They give us confidence; they spur us to be optimistic and to have hope; they make us see that doing things well is the way to make a better world and a better Spain.

Thank you very much.

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