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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Speech by HM the King during the ceremony at the 2019 Princess of Asturias Awards

Your Majesties, Your Highnesses,

Vice-President of the Spanish Government, Speaker of the Spanish Parliament, President of the Constitutional Court, President of the Supreme Court and of the General Council of the Judiciary, President of the Regional Government of the Principality of Asturias, Minister of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare, 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, dear Trustees and Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

These Awards –like the Foundation that grants them– will soon be four decades old. A time in which we have been accompanied by the people of Spain in the development of our democratic existence, being illuminated in each edition of the Awards by admirable examples of culture, humanism and openness to the world.

A time which for me personally has also been of enormous value; because I have grown and learned with them; as well as with the ties to this land, Asturias –so dear to all Spaniards–, embodied in the title that I proudly held during all those years and that now my daughter Princess Leonor has held since 2014 as Heir to the Throne.

As those who have closely followed this ceremony every autumn well know, we have experienced countless emotional, transcendent and unforgettable moments... the words and messages we have heard... the work, feats and creations of such worth to Humanity that have been made known to us.

Although, there were also moments I experienced in a very personal way, in addition to that first year, back in 1981, such as 15 years ago when, on this very same stage and in a ceremony similar to this afternoon’s, I attended the Awards for the first time accompanied by my wife, who was then Princess Letizia.

Well, today, a new emotion fills us both with joy and adds to so many memories experienced here together: our daughter Leonor, Princess of Asturias and Honorary President of the Foundation, is attending this ceremony for the first time, accompanied by her sister, the Infanta Sofia. With their presence, they both transform this day into something very special and charged with symbolism.

Returning to Asturias is therefore always an occasion for us to experience and relive extraordinary things, because the pleasure of visiting this beloved land once again complements the significance of awards which, from Spain, go beyond all borders to reach all the corners of knowledge. Asturias makes this remarkable event possible thanks to its love of culture, its sense of solidarity and its commitment to justice, equality and freedom.

I recall with admiration those who devised and founded this project, some of whom are present here today, whose vision and conviction continue to drive us intensely. I congratulate the Foundation’s Trustees and Patrons, who, via their fundamental support, make all this such a fecund reality. I also wish to acknowledge, as is just, the difficult work of the Juries, as well as the ever enthusiastic work of so many people who contribute to these Awards, to this Foundation, to this noble cause, both from within as well as from outside... To all these, our THANKS, as always!

However, the Laureates are today’s protagonists. They encapsulate all we wish to highlight and acknowledge; all we wish may shine in this ceremony. We offer them our most profound congratulations. They honour us with their presence. So allow me to now refer to each one of them.

Dreaming of the empty space, playing with it, filling it with life and beauty, that is how our Laureate for the Arts Peter Brook works. He seems to follow those verses of the Tao Te Ching: “Doors and windows are chiselled out to make a room. It is the empty space in the room that gives its function.”

Feeling, imagination, joy and intensity are terms that serve to better understand the career of this master of theatre, the career of this brilliant man. His now lengthy experience serves him, above all, to confirm and reaffirm his convictions about the value of the performing arts, about their benefits for the spectator, which he has always considered the one and only true protagonist.

Peter Brook thus works with passion, offering us a career brimming with success, emotion and art. Brimming with life and – as our dear Nuria Espert has stated– with “goodness and peace”. In his own words, “He has made what he thinks of life, of human beings and of the world become the art of theatre”.

The Prado Museum has been granted the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities. Beauty is its distinctive feature, the one that best defines this institution that came into being 200 years ago. The Prado is an enduring part of the history of Spain and, undoubtedly, of our cultural heritage, which the masterful brushstrokes of so many artists have left forever on canvas so that we may all enjoy, admire and reflect on their work.

In this bicentennial, we wish to congratulate from this stage all the people who care for, protect, preserve and even pamper the Prado Museum, as well as the millions of people who visit it and, in doing so, breathe new life into it. We recall with gratitude all those who, over the years, have made it the glorious gallery that is today, a sublime symbol of our identity and the best example of how the love of art and culture helps us become better citizens and better people.

We especially congratulate Javier Solana, who has recently been elected president of the museum’s Royal Board of Trustees. I am sure that, with your dedication, vision and experience in so many facets of life ─in conjunction with the direction of Miguel Falomir and his staff─, El Prado will continue to grow both in grandeur and beauty. I congratulate you, as well as thank and congratulate also those who, like Plácido Arango and Miguel Zugaza –who are with us here today– have successfully, responsibly and brilliantly discharged the highest duties at the head of this distinguished institution.

It is also just to recall here today your predecessor, José Pedro Pérez-Llorca, sadly deceased this year. His dedication to the Museum and his career as a public servant, as one of the “fathers” of our Constitution and as an enlightened man, will always be remembered with admiration and gratitude.

The Award for International Cooperation fixes its gaze this year on education and its necessary expansion and improvement. It has been conferred on the American engineer Salman Khan and the Khan Academyplatform he created. With his intelligent, innovative and collaborative outlook, Salman Khan helps millions of people worldwide to access universal knowledge, using the infinite possibilities that technology offers us.

His method is also supported by the crucial figure of teachers, which he has stated are “the most important part of any classroom”. We acknowledge them all from this stage with respect and gratitude for their noble and splendid work. They open up a whole world of knowledge to us, providing us with solid criteria, informed opinions, conviction and rigour. A world of knowledge which allows us to better understand everything that surrounds us, what we are, what we have done and the essence of things, so that we may aspire to a better, more supportive, free and peaceful life for all. With altruism, a global vision and an innovative and creative spirit, Salman Khan and the Khan Academy help to build this better future by insisting on the value of understanding and the equalizing capacity of knowledge.

American skier Lindsey Vonn has received the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports. Character traits such as endurance, bravery, tenacity and strength are inherent to her successful sporting career. Lindsey is a paradigm not only of everything that can be achieved through willpower and determination, overcoming obstacles; she is also a paradigm of all the positive aspects that practising sports brings to human beings.

Now, after winning so many cups and medals, of realizing so many goals ─what a dazzling list of achievements!─, Lyndsey Vonn no longer competes, focussing her efforts rather on new challenges such as that of helping younger women. In this way, she works for equality, seeking not only to overcome the unjust obstacles unrelated to their abilities and their training they often have to face, but also to generate real future opportunities for them. A great role model and a spur for millions of girls around the world who want, need and have got to carry forward their projects and their dreams.

Our Laureate for Literature, Siri Hustvedt, is an author acclaimed for the quality of her writing, for that special way of delving into the lives and histories of human beings, for her capacity of observation and the force of her gaze, so fundamental to her. “Writing fiction”, she has said, “is remembering what never happened.” In her works, further supported by her knowledge of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, she insists on the fact that women do not always find the recognition they deserve. Based on her own experience, she states that they are often forgotten or relegated simply due to being women.

Siri Hustvedt writes and works so that such an unjust situation will change once and for all. She does so with tenacity, with deep convictions and an intense capacity for reflecting all her concerns through the lives of her characters. All this shapes a solid oeuvre and makes her an essential writer, both for her novels and for her interesting, lucid essays.

One of the world’s leading sociologists, Professor Alejandro Portes, has received the Award for Social Sciences. His research and studies have mainly focused on immigration –which he personally knows all too well– and on the integration of the children of emigrants into host countries. That is, those people who consider themselves to be –because in fact they are– citizens of the country where their parents or grandparents one day came to find decent work and a life far removed from war, violence or poverty.

Portes informs us that the integration process leads to the building of a better society, in which the best social and civic virtues take root and are strengthened. He does all this with rigour, after analyzing, concluding and contributing his wealth of knowledge and his transcendent globalizing perspective.

We are pleased to know that Portes finds Spain, where he has led outstanding research teams, to be an example of how to manage sustained, diversified and orderly emigration, crucial in today’s world.

The studies and research of our Laureates for Technical and Scientific Research, American biologist Joanne Chory and Argentinian ecologist Sandra Myrna Díaz, once again place before our eyes the threatening climate crisis, global warming, the grave environmental problem that we must face without delay.

We are referring here to a “fundamental crossroads”, as Chory has described it. We are also referring at the same time to botany, plants and the rigorous, ground-breaking work of these brilliant researchers. For both, there is still hope; there is still a possibility of building a better future for the coming generations thanks to science and research.

A hope of which Patricia Espinosa also spoke in 2016 when, on collecting the Award bestowed on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, she stated, “Today, we have in our hands the tools to work together and build not only a better future, but also a safe and sustainable present for our children and the children of all.”

From this stage, we reiterate our willingness to help make that future possible and the need to commit ourselves to and take responsibility for this inescapable course of action. With hope in the future; without excuses.

Finally, the Award for Concord has been granted to the Polish city of Gdansk, represented this afternoon in the person of its mayor, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz.

Now a vibrant city, full of life and light, Gdansk has been marked by tragedy and resistance, by its struggle in favour of democracy and freedom and by its painful loss. It has always been a meeting point, but also the origin of political litigation of all kinds, which have transformed it into what it is today: an example of solidarity, integration and peaceful coexistence.

This may be because it is in the most difficult times when the yearning for certainty comes to the fore. This is how, with grandeur of spirit, its inhabitants have managed to transform all the city’s suffering, struggle and resistance into peaceful coexistence and concord.

And today Gdansk is, as in the verses of our admired Adam Zagajewski, “a just city / where foreigners aren’t punished, / a city quick to remember / and slow to forget”. That is why we are so proud to give you this Award.

Madam Mayor, we wish for each and every one of your city’s inhabitants to know that we admire their vitality, their civic- mindedness and their unity. I beg you to convey to them that their efforts to overcome obstacles, their desire for reconciliation and their aspirations for a free, serene and peaceful life, which they have so vividly demonstrated, are a veritable example.

Dear Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The granting of these Awards offers us the opportunity to honour people, institutions and entities that have marked the history of the past decades and whose legacy will be fundamental in the future. People who widen the scope of our culture and chart our course towards new horizons. That is why this ceremony, so full of emotion and noble feelings that are awakened in us every year, is, above all, a homage and tribute to exemplarity. Moved by their example, our gratitude is reaffirmed and a strength arises from within us that moves us to carry out the loftiest actions, to face the most arduous endeavours.

All this is also a fundamental reference for the youngest among us; for the generations that are to succeed us. We have a duty to guide their steps and the moral obligation to kindle their dreams and projects. We have a duty to provide them with the tools that help them face life’s challenges and difficulties. We have an obligation to leave them a better world and to help them build it. We also have, in short, the responsibility of nurturing in them a critical spirit, the desire for truth and the ability to preserve the profound and perennial values of culture and humanism.

That is why, dear Leonor, I think it is so important for you to think about everything that this ceremony represents and appreciate and internalize the message that these Awards convey to the world.

I know all so well that you have wanted to come with us to Asturias for a long time, so that you can experience first-hand – together with Sofia– everything that happens each year on the occasion of our Awards Ceremony. Well, that day has arrived.

On a day like today thirty-eight years –as I recalled when I started my speech–, I sat in the same place you sit now. So, I am well aware of what you are feeling at this moment, because I am sure that it is the same as I felt then: responsibility, emotion and also nerves, lots of nerves. But, above all, so very excited about the future. Your mother and I are very proud of you and happy to accompany you and be witness to this special and unique day.

Your honorary presidency of the Princess of Asturias Foundation corresponds to the personal and institutional commitment you, as Heir to the Throne, have towards Spain. And this solemn celebration is a sign of that commitment to the people of Spain which you must permanently renew with dedication, the spirit to serve, loyalty and responsibility; always humbly, and with the awareness of your institutional rank; day-by-day making the Crown an example of service to our country, because that is what our citizens expect of it.

Last year, when I conferred on you the Golden Fleece, you will remember that I told you that you should love culture, arts and sciences, because they give us the human dimension to be better and to help our society progress.

Our desire –that of the Queen and mine– is that everything you experience this evening –and many more evenings to come– will help you to do so. May all these feelings and ideas accompany you throughout the years, throughout your life. May the work distinguished each year by the Foundation and those who carry it out mark your life with profound, lasting references of culture, knowledge, values and intellectual inspiration, in a world in which you will inevitably have to experience discrepancy and uncertainty.

The obligation to serve Spain and its people must constitute the greatest source of pride and the highest honour you can achieve. Your duty will always be to act hopefully, courageously and gallantly; growing in responsibility, kindness and exemplarity.

And on this day when you join us for the first time at this ceremony, I would like to conclude by conveying to you, to your sister and to your entire generation, a message of trust. The ever so necessary trust that is rekindled every year in this theatre thanks to our Laureates, their great example and their extraordinary work, their pledge to the noblest causes, their love of solidarity and freedom. All thanks, in short, to their nobility of spirit, that I so very wish may be enhanced daily in your heart.

Thank you all very much.

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