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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Address by His Majesty the King at the presentation of the 2020 Princess of Asturias Awards

Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Vice-President of the Spanish Government, Speaker of the Spanish Parliament, Speaker of the Senate, President of the Supreme Court and of the General Council of the Judiciary, 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, Excellencies, Dear Trustees, members of the Juries and Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Perhaps this is a time when we most ineludibly need courage and hope. This ceremony, the circumstances in which it is held, the experience of the last few months are proof that nothing has been easy. Proof that we –the whole of humanity– have been and continue to be subjected to truly testing pressure and tension.

This health crisis has put the capacities of States to the test. It has shown their weaknesses and shortcomings, as well as their strengths, in addition to the importance of the lofty values that should govern democratic life; the importance that solidarity, unity, in short, affection have for one and all, without distinction. The value of shaking hands, a hug, a caress... Affection that we have all cultivated over time and that links us and permeates us, giving us life.

Last year our joint Laureate for Technical and Scientific Research, Sandra Myrna Díaz from Argentinian, dedicated her Award precisely "to all the fragile ones”, she told us, “on whose loving struggle the persistence of the fabric of life depends today and will depend in the future.”

Faced with so much loss, so much uncertainty and so much regret, other positive feelings and attitudes have also been reborn in us that perhaps too often seemed to be numbed. And that is why I stated that we need courage and hope more than ever.

With these weapons in our hands, that “loving struggle” that Sandra Myrna longed for will –I am convinced– be easier. Because on that mutual collaboration depends, more than ever, our present and our future; that of our country, that of our Europe and that of the entire World.

Today that hope is represented by our Laureates, although, sadly, not all of them have been able to travel to Asturias, as was both their wish and ours. They keep on working, doing their best. They continue to struggle day by day, from their different positions of responsibility, forging ahead on the path of progress, collective well-being and dignity. That is why today, moved by their example, we all have to think about forging ahead, without letting discouragement get to us. Quite the opposite, in fact; letting our life be built on the foundations of commitment. Letting our day to day be filled with generosity, with help. Let it be the firm will to build –among all of us– that drives us and leads us towards that future we long for.

The Award for Concord has been conferred on the thousands of Spanish health workers fighting on the front line against COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people, that is to say individual women and men, are paying a high price for their dedication and courage. They insist time and again that they are not heroes, that they are only doing their jobs.

Yet we know that they are doing far more; that they are helping, accompanying, consoling, taking care of the sick and – literally– dying for the sick, and that all too often they are working with insufficient means, trying at all times to mitigate the suffering of those who are –regrettably– succumbing to the disease. We thank them for their upstanding behaviour, their sacrifices, the way in which they are bringing to bear all their knowledge and experience, even placing their own lives at stake. That is the reason why we do believe their stance is heroic.

Today, in addition, we remember the thousands of people who have lost their lives, and with special emotion, here, all the health workers who have died, their families and friends. They are the very image of human dignity and represent what is best in our society; the heart of a country that, in the worst of times, needs to remain united and be capable of facing the most serious problems with a sense of duty, responsibility and civic-mindedness.

Among so many definitive absences that pain us here today, one that surprised us all and which has particularly saddened us this evening is that of the Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who, together with John Williams, received the Award for the Arts. Morricone had expressed his eagerness to travel to Asturias to attend this event and although we are so very sorry for his death3 and that he could not see his wishes fulfilled, we honour him, filled with emotion, here in the presence of his son Andrea.

The evocative power of the unforgettable soundtracks written by Morricone and Williams ─each one, in their own style, a whole world of beauty─, and the strength and emotion with which they individualize and serve to identify so many films that mark so much of the history of film are the result of their immense genius. Their film scores are also the result of their great love for music. A love which Morricone also left forever emblazoned on our hearts so eloquently shortly before his death, transmitting to us that he composed, above all, in order to communicate, to share a unique experience with everyone.

Moreover, Williams, who we know feels Morricone’s absence especially today, has shared with us his belief in music as an art that brings people closer, bridges distances, provides us comfort and alleviates suffering. For all this, we thank them today for their humility and greatness.

The Guadalajara International Book Fair and the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts have received the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities. Both literary events encourage, protect and promote literature, enabling it to occupy a prominent place in cultural life worldwide.

The power of the written word, the undeniable influence that books and literature have on cultural education and the necessary support that writers around the world find thanks to the Guadalajara Book Fair and the Hay Festival are just some of their merits. These are accompanied by the firm vision, sustained over time and with increasing prestige, of a form of culture in which literature, writers, publishers and readers make up a fundamental, basic whole; a whole that also includes music and that capacity to communicate I alluded to previously.

Both events are thus an expression of the importance of cultural exchange, dialogue between cultures, the enjoyment of different forms of artistic expression and the promotion and protection of literature.

The Award for Social Sciences recognizes economist Dani Rodrik, whose trilemma thesis has had an enormous impact on the study of economic growth and analysis, development and politics. Professor Rodrik has analysed the urgent need we have to fight against inequality and cooperate with the most underprivileged countries, while at the same time providing us with tools4 to try to understand why, in his opinion, it is not possible to combine globalization with democracy and national sovereignty.

The search for solutions and the construction of a more equitable society are two of the pillars that form the basis of Rodrik’s work; work which is necessary to try to solve some of the most pressing problems of global economic politics.

His reflections and research bring us a little closer to the world we desire and confront us with injustices and economic imbalances. These are ideas that become even more germane today given the unfavourable consequences that the pandemic is producing in the economies of so many countries.

Our Laureate for Sports, Carlos Sainz, has amply proven his worth throughout his exceptional sporting career. We all know that he is one of the world’s top rally drivers, one of those who have won the most world titles, the first Spaniard to win the Dakar Rally in the category of cars, among other feats. We could continue in this vein, highlighting his merits, which he has always shared with all the fans and people who have followed his triumphs with joy and emotion over the years and who have always supported and encouraged him, no matter the circumstances.

Carlos has worked hard from very early on, tenaciously, with an urge to compete and win; but also with intelligence, team spirit, simplicity and a sense of chivalry. These virtues make him a unique sportsman, an example for all of us who love sport and are thrilled and proud to share in all his triumphs. They have, in short, made him a sportsman whom we unconditionally and fondly admire. Carlos Sainz is still competing… and winning, but, for a long time now, his name has been on that roster of legendary Spanish athletes that we hope never ends.

The writer Anne Carson has received the Award for Literature. Classical culture, the humanities, the Greco-Roman world, history all form an indissoluble part of her style, marked by a truly admirable devotion to knowledge and capacity for observation. She has stated “I write about what I have to write about.” An extremely humble way of expressing the magic, depth and beauty of a body of work that opens up to the world with the goal of explaining it from the perspective of feeling, emotion and passion.

As her much-admired Virginia Woolf wrote, “But beauty must be broken daily to remain beautiful.” This is how Anne Carson writes, delving deep into reality with each verse, with each phrase, and transforming it into something even more real, more profoundly authentic, always remaining true to herself, without ever abdicating from a hypnotic, intense, avant-garde and surprising literature charged with indescribable beauty.

The Award for Technical and Scientific Research has been conferred on Yves Meyer, Ingrid Daubechies, Terence Tao and Emmanuel Candès, four professors and researchers who have significantly contributed to the development of mathematical theories and data processing techniques, and have managed to place this discipline as a core element in the development of the digital age.

Beyond the technical and theoretical difficulties that their studies entail, on approaching their work we are aware that fundamental advances have been achieved thanks to it. Thanks to Meyer and Daubechies’ wavelets and Tao and Candès’ techniques of compressed sensing and efficient reconstruction, many chiaroscuros of science have become more accessible: from the work in the vastness of the Universe of Hubble to the minimal images of our own body on an MRI. Thanks, in short, to mathematics and its importance as a cross-cutting element in all branches of science, as stated by the Jury for the Award.

The Award for International Cooperation has been bestowed on Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Science, scientists and their research work, medicine, drugs and health are much more present in our day-to-day lives due to the pandemic we are suffering. We have become accustomed in recent months to continuously hearing and using words such as virus, enzyme, immunity, antibodies, which were previously less familiar to us. And we have unquestionably –and harshly– evidenced the vital importance of scientific research and knowledge for our well-being, and even our survival.

The pandemic has also made us think again about the unfair pain that so many people in the world endure due to not having access to all these benefits, simply because they were born and live in less privileged places. The Gavi alliance works tirelessly to try to put an end to this imbalance. Millions of girls and boys can thus be protected against diseases that, thanks to vaccines, may even be eradicated.

Gavi’s commendable cooperative work and solidarity constitute an example of how, by joining and consolidating efforts, wills and means, it is possible to work for a more just world. And it is our moral duty to demand and support the maximum scientific rigour and transparency in order to bolster the broadest possible confidence in this field that is so decisive for the health and balanced and fair development of humanity

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before sharing some final thoughts with you, please allow me to recall with emotion our dear Plácido Arango, a great person and a great friend. He was an extraordinary President of the Foundation, a person with solid cultural credentials, great intelligence and a sense of humour, as well as profoundly refined. Plácido showed a truly admirable capacity to accompany and advise. And I am sure that, at this time, he would be setting a great example of encouragement to all of us to forge ahead.

Plácido Arango promoted and formed part of our Board of Trustees from the beginning and, by remembering him, I wish to thank all our Trustees for their constant and enormous generosity, without whose commitment our project could not become reality.

And we also regret the very recent loss of two distinguished Laureates:

that of “Quino” (Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón), to whom we presented the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities in 2014. And in the heart of Oviedo, sitting on a bench in San Francisco Park, his memory will be forever immortalized thanks to Mafalda, who gazes on those who approach her with an endearing smile.

And we also feel the loss of Joseph Pérez, the great FrancoSpanish Hispanist, who received the Award for Social Sciences that same year. As I stated at that time, "history is the definitive and authentic version of that which defines and distinguishes us, which fashions us as a people and which explains us and gives meaning to our reason for being.”

Democratic Spain was what gave meaning to our Foundation’s reason for being. Since its inception ─40 years ago now in this Salón Covadonga reception room where we find ourselves today─, our Foundation has worked tirelessly, always cultivating its deep roots in knowledge, critical thinking, the love of science and culture, and solidarity; and it has grown thanks to the7 permanent life blood that, like our society, it has received from our Constitution: a historical commitment that, day by day, guarantees our democratic coexistence, the dignity of human beings, and their rights and duties as free citizens. A permanent commitment, in short, to our constitutional principles and values.

During all this time, the setting that has accommodated us has been Campoamor Theatre; a warm and welcoming theatre, witness to unforgettable moments. Today the theatre remains closed while we celebrate this event. But we also confidently know that we will return, that “our Awards Ceremony” will continue to be held where on so many occasions ─since 1981─ we have felt deep emotion; where we have learned so much from words, feelings and works brimming with humanity, excellence and exemplarity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my message to Spaniards last March, I said that “There are moments in the history of peoples in which reality tests us in a difficult, painful and sometimes extreme way.” Now, when so many people have faced and continue to face such serious and complex situations due to the pandemic, when many citizens feel great uncertainty and concern about their economic situation, it is necessary for all of us to make a great collective effort, a great national effort, of understanding and concord; and display all our energy, all the talent there is in our society, all the capacity of the State, and an unwavering and determined will and attitude to excel.

During this crisis, the vast majority of the Spanish people are showing indisputable evidence of resistance and integrity. Their example can neither be a sterile effort or be forgotten. And this example requires all institutions to always stand –now more than ever– by the side and at the service of society. It requires us to conduct ourselves with a sense of duty, with the greatest responsibility, and with the utmost integrity and rectitude, so that the national interest prevails and the general interests of the Spanish people serve as our compass forward.

This is how society and the institutions that represent it are recognized, justified and committed to the best future of our Nation.

In the year of Benito Pérez Galdós’ centenary, let us remember his ever lucid words,. History, he wrote, “lies in the slow and almost always painful life of society, in what each and every one of us does.” It is true; this time of ours of uncertainty is, perhaps now more than ever, a time for8 each and every one of us. Let us continue journeying through our history along the paths that lead to reason, respect and the word given that define the essence and commitment of the Foundation with our democratic Spain. And together may we celebrate the value of life.

Thank you very much.

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