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Speech by HM The King at the 2022 Princess of Asturias Awards Ceremony

Vice-President of the Spanish Government, Speaker of the Spanish Parliament, Speaker of the Spanish Senate, President of the Constitutional Court, Ministers, President of the Regional Government of the Principality of Asturias, Speaker of the Regional Parliament of the Principality of Asturias, Delegate of the Central Government in Asturias, Mayor of Oviedo, President of the Princess of Asturias Foundation, Authorities, Trustees and Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to meet again in this Princess of Asturias Awards Ceremony. It is, of course, a great joy to be able to do so with a sense of getting back to normality. Seeing the Campoamor full to capacity, in addition to verifying the full deployment of our “Awards Week” activities after having held the last two editions with the logical limitations resulting from the pandemic, both comforts and encourages us. This ceremony regains its essence in full, as it undoubtedly deserves; as our Laureates also undeniably deserve.

Yet this joy of seeing each other, of shaking hands or embracing each other cannot make us forget the memory of the so many we lost, of the dedication and generosity that our society showed to such an extent.

Every year, an occasion like this affords us the magnificent opportunity to continue to discover stories of effort and excellence, of hope and enthusiasm, through the work and careers of those who really shine light on these Awards. It also allows us to continue discovering the beauty of this land, and the soul and generous heart of the people of Asturias. We are accordingly grateful for your affection, your welcome and your hospitality.

We return to Asturias once again to participate in this ceremony of recognition and generosity, of culture and gratitude. And the Queen and I do so ─as do our daughters, Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofía─ renewing the feelings that, from their inception, have forged the reason for these Awards.

The values that over the 42 years that the Awards have now been held return to this stage today, embodied by our Laureates; values we have defended and honoured: solidarity, harmony, cooperation, the continuous desire to improve, the love for freedom, the defence of Human Rights. And in doing so, we thank those who generously help and support us to make all this possible.

The Laureates are an unceasing source of inspiration for us and a reflection of our finest aspirations, and I would now like to address my words to them, because this ceremony is theirs, this moment is theirs and theirs, therefore, is the merit recognized via these Awards. Congratulations.

Through flamenco singing and dance, Carmen Linares and María Pagés respectively embody the love for artistic heritage, as well as the constant desire to evolve and express the beauty of a millenary art and culture that likewise constitutes the essence of Spain’s cultural heritage.

Flamenco singer Carmen Linares has spent 40 years showing the world what flamenco is and what it signifies. Drawing from the great maestros, she has known how to evolve by virtue of her sensitive, expressive, receptive and passionate way of understanding flamenco singing. These very same virtues are shared by flamenco dancer and choreographer María Pagés, an artist with a solid background, likewise brimming with enormous talent and sensitivity, who is staunchly convinced of the greatness that flamenco possesses, of its modern-day possibilities and of the recognition it deserves and needs.

In 1997, when we honoured a close friend of Adam Michnik’s, the then President of the Czech Republic and writer Václav Havel, we heard Havel firmly advocate on this very stage for the values of understanding and communication.

This is also how the Polish journalist, writer and editor Michnik has lived and worked: battling, making sacrifices for peace, reconciliation and dialogue; defending Human Rights and, above all, the recovery of democracy for his country. Over the years, he has continued to offer us his lucid and intelligent gaze, one of deep ethical commitment; as he has recently done concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its grave and terrible consequences.

The Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma vehemently upholds the enduring ties that unite our countries. He does so based on the profound knowledge he has of Mexico’s history and culture, validated by an intense body of work in which he has researched and analysed Mesoamerican cultures and for which he is internationally recognized.

From a very early age he has sought answers to the questions posed by the past, fleeing from clichés and myths that distort and impoverish the truth. Today, we express our thanks for his remarkable endeavours, for the affection and sincerity with which he defends the fraternal, fruitful relations between Spain and Mexico, under the aegis of our common history and our coexistence over the centuries.

Theatre returns once more to this stage by virtue of the playwright and academic Juan Mayorga, a man who has made theatre his life and who, at the same time, has filled many of the world’s stages with life. For it is life itself that is portrayed the most in Mayorga’s plays; life with all its contradictions, its horror and its beauty, its greatness and its miseries. All the things that “are worth living for”, as he himself has stated, and that make up a courageous, critical oeuvre in which silence and words masterfully merge. A body of work that already forms an essential part of Spain’s rich theatrical tradition.

Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, Yoshua Bengio and Demis Hassabis are experts in the cutting-edge field of Artificial Intelligence and in what is known as ‘Deep Learning’. Their work immerses us all in a world which opens up endless possibilities for future technology and science and their respective advancement.

They work with computers, neural networks, data processing, algorithms and, thanks to their efforts, have managed to imitate the functioning of the human brain, its learning processes and its capabilities; a trail-blazing field with tremendous impact on our daily lives.

From this stage, we send our affectionate greetings and admiration to Professors Hinton and Bengio, who have not been able to join us here today, and wish them a speedy recovery.

The Olympic Refuge Foundation and the Refugee Olympic Team remind us that sport, high-level competition and the Olympic movement also serve to remember, reflect and –as far as possible– ease the harsh reality that so many people in the world are experiencing.

The word ‘refugee’ is one of those terms that evokes a profound sense of despondency in the listener, because the world’s refugees have lost everything, having been forced to abandon their homes, their countries, their lives, for reasons beyond their control and always under dramatic circumstances, their lives even being placed in danger.

We are obliged to act in solidarity so that they can recover their personal ambitions. That is what the Olympic Refuge Foundation and the Refugee Olympic Team do via the support they provide to athletes from various countries around the world so that they can resume their pursuits under decent conditions and participate in sport competitions. We wish every success to Eldric Sella and Masomah Ali Zada who are with us here this evening and whom we encourage to continue fighting for their dreams. Our thanks also to IOC President Thomas Bach for his support, leadership and drive.

Protecting the dignity of all victims of displacement caused by natural disasters or humanitarian crises is the major goal of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. He has set his gaze on those who need to get their lives back –almost always urgently– and who need a roof under which to take shelter when everything goes wrong for them. And so, he has designed his architectural projects with simple, reusable, sustainable materials.

Thus, Ban brilliantly stands at the forefront of a way of understanding architecture and, above all, of showing solidarity with those who suffer the most, a generous form of behaviour that we admire and recognize here today.

Ellen MacArthur’s passion for the sea and the oceans, her intense observation as a great seafarer and ocean yachtswoman, together with her sensitivity towards the serious deterioration she has so often witnessed, led her to focus her work on raising awareness regarding the reuse and recycling of materials and reducing consumption and the most pollutant emissions.

Through her foundation, she has become a leading advocate of what is known as circular economy; that is, an economy which works to make better use of resources. Moreover, thanks to her efforts, courage and tenacity, a binding international agreement has been reached to reduce the production of plastics. We thank her for her efforts, her stance and dedication to a cause that has become one of humanity’s greatest challenges, namely climate change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we have heard from the President, Luis Fernández Vega, he is coming to the end of his term at the head of the Foundation. As you have so rightly said, dear Luis, these have been years replete with uncertainty, in which we have had to face adverse and hitherto unknown circumstances. Your presidency has therefore been especially demanding and we greatly appreciate the responsibility you have assumed, all the work you have carried out and your serenity in difficult times.

Thank you also for your affection and concerns for the institution in these years in which we have happily seen the Princess of Asturias begin her journey as Honorary President of the Foundation, getting to know Asturias better and caring for it even more, always with Infanta Sofía close at hand, offering her support and involvement. Congratulations and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all this, for your magnificent work.

At the same time, we warmly welcome to the presidency Ana Isabel Fernández, who will guide the steps of the institution. Professor of Financial Economics and Rector of CUNEF University, she has in-depth knowledge of our Foundation, having sat on the Board of Trustees since 2015 and having formed part of the Jury for the Award for Concord on several occasions.

We know, Ana, that your commitment to the mission and goals of the institution is resolute, and we wish you every success in this new responsibility. The enthusiasm with which you have accepted your appointment and your stepping up to the challenge gives us great confidence. We especially appreciate it.

The Foundation is thus preparing for a new stage. And it does so at a time which −it cannot be denied− puts optimism truly to the test. A convulsive time, lacking in harmony, that affects the International Community as a whole. Awareness of this reality causes us deep concern and also bewilderment, disheartenment even. Yet, as we well know, the worst moments and the most difficult obstacles to overcome are also those that move us to determination, action, solutions.

The world economic situation, energy security and the environmental crisis are enormous challenges, added to which is a war in Europe. A war that has lasted eight endless months, causing immense, irreparable damage, bringing with it the terrible recollection and weighty shadow of other times, threatening both our present and our future. A horror that has regrettably returned to the Europe of the 21st century; a horror–let us not forget– that regrettably persists in other parts of the world and which always represents a great failure for humanity.

The war in Ukraine is destroying lives, as well as future projects, prospects and hopes, personal feelings and emotions.

The victim in this –as in any war– is all that enriches us as human beings and constitutes a legacy handed down from generation to generation. The war is destroying libraries, schools, music, museums, science, art. Culture is thus a victim of war. But war will never destroy Culture, nor the values it represents, nor the freedom and dignity of human beings, all of which lie at the heart of these Awards and our Foundation. Values that Europe also represents.

Let us not forget that the origin of the current European Union was the search for a permanent peace after the devastation caused by the two major world wars. The Schuman Declaration, the first major step towards that peace, retains today, 72 years later —72—, its magnificent meaning, because the idea of a Europe united to achieve and preserve peace on the continent is still absolutely valid.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Adverse moments like the current ones provoke doubts and concerns about the construction of Europe itself. The Declaration underlined the fact that nothing enduring is done easily. That is why we cannot give up, we must persevere to consolidate this project, which has united us so much and continues to unite us today. A project of progress, freedom, fairness, respect, Human Rights, democratic principles; one that deserves our loyalty and our full commitment at one of the most crucial moments in its recent history.

We need to recall and recognize the importance that the EU has had and continues to have for Spain. In the past it was a longing, an ambition, a historical aspiration. Today it is a reality that we experience day by day. Today we are building Spain by building Europe, and we are part of the common destiny of a united Europe. Hence our involvement in that shared future, which means much more than the belief in an ideal; it means the struggle for certain convictions and principles to jointly forge a future of peace, justice, freedom and hope.

Bearing in mind that will and that motivation, I wish to communicate to you, dear Laureates, that you are an example of what can be achieved by working from that sense of unity, collaborating and cooperating for the common good, for others and with others. Thank you all very much for your example and commitment.

Dear Eleanor and Sofía,
You are becoming more and more aware of the role played by our Laureates. As Leonor has told us before, you care about their cause and what they have achieved; and you know that they symbolize the finest of spirits, that they are a true inspiration for everyone.

I encourage you and all the young people of your generation to seek out your own reflection even more in them, in their work, in their efforts and aspirations, in their generosity and their gratitude. In this way, you will help us move further forward as a society. Because they ultimately represent values and qualities that are increasingly essential in this 21st century.

Their scope and significance are made manifest in Asturias; Asturias shows us, once again, that it is capable of reconciling us with humankind’s finest.

Thank you very much.

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