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Speech by HM The King at the 2023 Princess of Asturias Awards Ceremony

Your Majesties, Your Highnesses,,
Speakers of both Houses of the Spanish Parliament,,
Presidents of the Constitutional Court and the General Council of the Judiciary,
Vice President of the Government of Spain and 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, Laureates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This solemn ceremony that we hold every autumn symbolizes the goals that the Princess of Asturias Foundation set itself 43 years ago: to pay tribute through its Awards to those who, via their work, serve as an example —for one and all— of the most exalted values.

That is why this evening we once again feel especially moved and grateful for the significance, impact and contribution of our Laureates to a wiser, fairer and more splendid world.

Whatever the circumstances of the present moment may be, the work of each one of them always gives us reasons for hope, reasons to continue to have faith in humanity and in our ability to move forward and, thus, not give in to the bleakest auguries.

The Queen, as well as our daughters, once again feel the warm, open-hearted welcome that you always offer us in this land. We most sincerely appreciate the affection and hospitality of the Asturian people.

Two of our Laureates who sadly passed away a few months ago and whose absence we feel so deeply come most especially to mind here today: Nuccio Ordine, Laureate for Communication and Humanities, and Hélène Carrère, Laureate for Social Sciences. Members of their families, who accompany us today –thank you for being here– remind us of the magnitude and merit of their intellectual work.

Nuccio Ordine was looking forward to travelling to Asturias to receive his Award. He loved Spain, its history and culture, a sentiment he acknowledged whenever the opportunity arose. We take comfort in knowing that we will continue to enjoy his great legacy.

The best way to pay tribute to him is to bear in mind his advice: let us delve into the cultivation of the spirit; let us highlight the brilliance of the best scholars; let us make unrestricted research, art and critical thinking the horizon that inspires us to better ourselves.

The universe of unrestricted opinion and research, of sound, well-informed criteria, of the constant desire to learn, is also populated by the work of Hélène Carrère. For decades, she intensely dedicated herself to her speciality, the history of Russia and the Soviet Union –and the lives of the most important figures who shaped it– so as to draw conclusions that would help us understand the world.

Carrère strove intensely throughout her life so that hard work and perseverance might triumph, so that the humanities might be consolidated, so that the love of knowledge might prevail. How dearly lacking at present is her knowledge when analysing the terrible, bleak news that defines Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Dear Laureates, I am sure you will have already perceived the admiration and respect you arouse in Spain, in addition to the affection with which we welcome you to Asturias. We take great pride in recognizing your work and are honoured to have you here with us.

Meryl Streep’s career in films is interwoven with masterful performances that have made her one of the greatest actresses in the history of the silver screen. Both in comic and dramatic roles, she has brought life to passionate female characters who live intense, meaningful stories, as well as to characters faced with sacrifices and painful abnegation, with choices that are impossible to make. And she has always done so with love and light, with absolute dedication, reflected in her every gesture, her every movement, in every inflection of her voice. Consistently and truthfully, with talent and vocation.

In a subtle, constant and beautiful way, Meryl Streep has persistently left the indelible mark in her performances –as in her own life– of her unwavering defence of women: sometimes with simply a gaze, a shy smile or a tear, exhorting us to respect this vindication unreservedly, as she does, so as to persevere in the consolidation of women’s equality, dignity and freedom.

Throughout his athletic career, Eliud Kipchoge has faced the most trying challenges, achieving outstanding triumphs that have made him one of the most legendary runners of all time. His achievements are the reflection of an attitude towards life that forges the greatest athletes: the constant desire to surpass oneself and the healthy ambition to be ever better, to go even further... As Olympic ideals demonstrate so well, through healthy, demanding sporting competition ruled by fair play.

Thanks to his titanic efforts over the years, he has also come to learn the importance of sharing success and, above all, of ensuring that the most disadvantaged can also enjoy the same. And through the work of his foundation, he has become someone we not only admire for his feats, but also someone we especially thank for his sense of solidarity.

Haruki Murakami has masterfully managed to merge the Western and Japanese worlds in his literary works, which take place in disturbing, though also transparent, well-defined settings awash with music. Settings that are sometimes implausible and unreal, uncertain, nostalgic and intimate. These same settings are also peopled by his characters, whose actions are moved by strong feelings of doubt and love, beings who fervently seek an explanation, an answer.

Murakami has said that he makes a living writing things that people do not need and that this, he claims, is little less than a miracle. We perceive in this statement the echo of so many thinkers and writers who reaffirm the significance that art, culture and the cultivation of the spirit have for us all..

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) makes a deep impression on us through its exemplary cooperation and clear-cut facts and figures: It attends to more than one and a half billion people from the world’s poorest populations who suffer from diseases for which there is not always an appropriate drug or treatment, carrying out extraordinary work in establishing research, drug development and distribution projects, clinical studies and joint work with government administrations, universities and international research centres.

In this organization, they believe that success in solving these problems can be achieved, above all, when those who have it in their hands –or at least have the capacity to act– come together to carry out truly useful actions. The fact that they manage to develop effective, accessible and affordable drugs is a wake-up call for humanity as a whole.

The scientific studies of Jeffrey Gordon, Peter Greenberg and Bonnie L. Bassler focus on the immense number of microorganisms that live in our body and play a decisive role in our health. Broadening our knowledge of communication between bacteria, their group behaviour and what the human microbiome is and how it works is crucial in order to improve therapies and, among other issues, to enable the search for effective treatments against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a serious public health problem that requires the utmost attention.

All three are also a symbol of how society becomes more humane by pooling projects, adequately financing research and fostering science. That is why we shall never tire of maintaining that scientists need the necessary means and resources to carry out their work with dignity.

We are sorry that Jeffrey Gordon was unable to join Greenberg and Bassler here today due to the sudden loss of his wife, Debby. From here we send him our affection and our deepest- felt condolences.

The non-profit organization Mary’s Meals knows all too well the reality of neglect and inequality that we previously touched on. Those in charge of the organization are dedicated to feeding hungry children. And they do so every day in eighteen countries, feeding almost two and a half million schoolchildren. Because attending school is a necessary and essential condition in order to receive food. Mary’s Meals likewise focuses on those who lack the most basic necessities, offering them opportunities for the future and helping them carry out their lives with dignity.

Its founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow –whom we wish gets well soon– firmly maintains that it is senseless for people to be dying of hunger in today’s world. This ever so admirable and deeply humane work should be emulated worldwide so as to ensure that eating and learning –so basic and necessary for every living person– are not so hard –or even extraordinary– to achieve in so many places in the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the Princess of Asturias has just told us, she is at an important moment in her preparation to fulfil her institutional obligations. On 7th October, alongside her fellow cadets she took an oath at the General Military Academy to serve Spain. And on 31st of this month —having come of age– she is to swear an oath to uphold and safeguard the Constitution before the Spanish Parliament, an act of tremendous institutional significance, historical symbolism and personal commitment.

As she takes these steps, The Queen and I –as both Monarchs and parents– are deeply proud of her sense of duty, her dedication and the enthusiasm with which she faces her future. And this is also how her sister Infanta Sofía makes us feel, who also proceeds in her preparation, acquiring knowledge, values and experience to serve and help others.

We are especially happy that they wish to share with their generation the messages, example and excellence that our Laureates represent and transmit.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, by praising the work of them all, we take a step closer to that world that we so need and long for, built of the will to do good, of people who are a bastion of civic and moral values, and who work each day to help solve some of humanity’s most serious problems.

At the beginning of the 21st century, we all had the hope of living in a more peaceful, more stable, more orderly world. However, much to the regret of us all, this is not the case.

This 21st century has brought us the terrible return of war, of armed conflicts in their bleakest, most brutal versions; as well as a sense of vertigo owing to the risk of such conflict spreading. As if the grave lessons of a not-so-distant past had been forgotten, clashes proliferate once again, causing genuine tragedies of extreme magnitude and global scope, full of horror and devastation that ignore and disregard the lives, dignity and human rights of millions of people.

At a time when the conflict in the Middle East is once again causing such heartbreaking suffering, I think it important to recall here that the Foundation jointly conferred the 1994 Award for International Cooperation on the Prime Minister of Israel, Isaac Rabin, and the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Yasser Arafat. This recognition was due –and I quote the Minutes of the Jury– to "their decisive efforts aimed at creating the conditions for peace in their region, following the process initiated at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, which should lead to the definitive pacification of the Middle East".

A peace that needs to be nurtured, upheld and defended, as HM King Hussein of Jordan highlighted a year later on receiving the Award for Concord. For this is the only way to guarantee a better future, a secure future for all Humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Within this context, as I have mentioned, of wars and armed conflicts, geopolitical tensions intensify and, time and again, put the international order and its rules to the test, questioning the consensus needed to maintain said order. However, in addition, as a result of all this instability, economies suffer with very harmful effects for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

This shift takes us away from the noble idea that Nations – Humanity– must provide one another with guarantees of respect and security and that we need to cooperate seriously, profoundly and sincerely to address the world’s major challenges.

But the shadow also spreads over democracies, over the principles and values that inspire and guarantee our coexistence. Their fragility is a reminder not to fall into the trap of indifference. Our Laureates have advised us of this on this very stage and have told us that we must defend them firmly and tirelessly.

In these times we live in, taking into account all the challenges we have to face, it is time for the greatest sense of responsibility. It is always so, undoubtedly; but in these circumstances, said duty must be taken to the extreme. Peace, the economic and social well- being of millions of people and the preservation of democratic values demand we do so.

For all this, on days like today, we have to be especially aware of everything we have achieved as a Nation, of everything we have built and made to prosper with so much effort. We have to be especially aware of how necessary it is to conserve and uphold all this from what could undermine it and that we must take care of all that is best in our history.

Our problems are many, and the solutions will come –as has always occurred and the history of Spain demonstrates– via unity, never via division.

When we stop to read or listen carefully to what the Laureates tell us, we see that they always highlight the value of work in common, of shared projects carried out with the enthusiasm, talent and loyal efforts of many people, all very different.

If we wish to build something of import, something that makes sense, the collaboration and commitment of everyone is more essential than ever. As also is the will to integrate if we wish to build something solid, lasting and permanent. It is via union, via group effort and supportive attitudes that great works are raised.

This is how answers emerge that will actually allow us to move forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to close by turning once again to our Laureates. Their constant and fruitful work to improve the lives of others, to help and protect the weakest, to elevate culture and be a guiding light... is both exemplary and essential. When so many things seem so difficult to solve, we need to continue listening to their voices. And to continue learning from them.

Without doubt, strengthening what unites us will allow us to continue tracing our history and cast light on the paths we are to tread. In this way, we shall be able to face the future with greater confidence; with well-founded hope. Of that I am convinced.

Thank you very much.

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