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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Speech by HRH the Prince of Asturias during the ceremony at the 2014 Prince of Asturias Awards

On 24th September 1980, a small group of Asturians created our foundation, the Prince of Asturias Foundation. It took place in a formal ceremony held in this city, under the presidency of my parents, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía.

They were times of uncertainty and concern, but above all of special enthusiasm and hope; they were times when we dreamed of concord and freedom. The aim of the prime movers of this initiative was to take up these feelings, inspired by the broad and generous course laid out by the recently approved Constitution.

The Prince of Asturias Awards thus came into being with the aim of creating bonds between the Heir to the Crown and the Principality and of establishing a commitment to culture and humanism. They came into being to thank and pay tribute to those who make sacrifices to create a better world. They came into being, in short, to distinguish those who wish to make life an act of continuous creation.

One year later –one that was, moreover, to be especially impressed on my memory–, while still a child, I presented the first awards and gave my first speech in public in this very theatre. And thus, supported by the power of dreams and eager hope, convinced that there is nothing that courageous hearts cannot fully achieve, we have pressed on year after year.

Here, I listened, we listened, to masterful lessons, lucid reflections that encourage the spirit of knowing how to comprehend; poets who have sung to freedom, to life. We have borne witness to brave, sincere words of commitment. Each year, I have been deeply touched as I –as we all– have heard teachings and ideas that have shaped and enriched my life; and surely that of many others.

Since then we have followed a long and fruitful course. Thirty-four years have passed, during which the hours of serenity have been few. Nevertheless, we have tried not to fall into the temptation of taking the easy path, of giving way to banality, impatience or dismay. We have made no concession to routine or complacency.

For all these reasons, you will all understand how moved I am to return here today as King, to present these Awards and to preside over this ceremony. You will all understand how much gratitude I feel deep in my heart, how many unforgettable memories and sentiments reside deep inside me. You will all understand the care and dedication the Queen and I put into raising our daughters, Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Princess Sofía, so that a commitment such as ours to this noble cause and all that it entails might grow within them, as well.

And so, on this most special occasion I wish to thank the many, many people who have helped us, those who have worked with diligence and conviction, the Trustees and Patrons, the Juries, the media and, of course, the people of Asturias, who welcome us so affectionately each time we visit Asturias.

We also thank Queen Sofía, whose support for us has never faltered during all these years. And above all, I wish to thank our Laureates, who accompany us here today in this ceremony ennobling it with their presence. They bring to mind, yet another year, its deep, true meaning; and I will now address my words to them.

American architect Frank Gehry has been granted the 2014 Award for the Arts. The artistic vision, creative force and beauty with which he executes his projects have always stood out in his work. In Spain, the building of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao constituted a unique event; not only for its spectacular beauty, but also for the transformational effect it had on the city. We associate Gehry’s name and work with light, with the lustre of new materials; we associate them with a magical style of architecture, the reflection of a master builder, of a professional who –as he has stated– always brings to fruition what he imagines: architectural works brimming with vitality and breath-taking beauty.

Frank Gehry’s example constitutes an invitation for Spain to continue being an artistic and cultural leader in all fields; and is an invitation for Spaniards to continue exhibiting and sharing their creativity both within and beyond our borders.

The Award for Social Sciences has been bestowed on French historian and Hispanist Joseph Pérez, whose parents were from Bocairent, Valencia. His studies, research and publications are of the highest scientific value. He has taken particular interest in the Modern Age, addressing historical topics and figures such as the Black Legend, the Expulsion of the Jews in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs, Philip II of Spain and Cardinal Cisneros. His painstakingly documented analyses and studies add no fuel to half- or supposed truths, seeking always to be objective, balanced and free of platitudes.

With profound respect for data and historical facts, Joseph Pérez masterfully highlights all that has progressively shaped the historical development of Spain and Spanish America, with both its mistakes and its major successes. In his hands, history is the authentic version of that which defines and distinguishes us, which fashions us as a people and which explains us and gives meaning to our raison d’être.

What Joseph Pérez’s teachings have to offer Spaniards could not be more germane.

Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón, better known as Quino, has received the Award for Communication and Humanities. This is the first time our Awards recognize a cartoonist and they do so distinguishing the work of a man who strives, as he has said, “to cause the world go over to the side of the good guys”.

Born of his keen and intuitive insight, Mafalda and the other characters devised by Quino are profoundly human, as well as being endowed with intelligent irony, sweet innocence or overwhelming common sense.

Son of Andalusian parents exiled in Argentina, he has also experienced exile first-hand. Nonetheless, he has managed to imbue his characters with a remarkable capacity for conveying universal educational values; as universal as the admiration and affection his splendid cartoons and drawings also arouse.

Quino’s work reminds us Spaniards –and anyone from any other society– of the need to always be guided by the finest and soundest principles and values, and to do so with a genuine feeling of deep-seated humanity.

The chemists Avelino Corma, Mark E. Davis and Galen D. Stucky have been granted the Award for Technical and Scientific Research. The three professors believe that advances in chemical science can –and should– change the world and make it a more humane place.

They are also well aware that their discoveries, inventions and patents are the result of the collaborative work of teams of scientists who share their enthusiasm and desire to do science, and also the desire to reveal the existence of what is known as “green chemistry”, the aims of which are to preserve the environment, improve industry, making it cleaner and more sustainable, as well as to make certain drugs more effective and less harmful to humans, especially those used in the fight against cancer. These are laudable goals, which Corma, Davis and Stucky likewise ennoble with their continued teaching responsibilities, with their exemplary dedication and commitment.

Their work is proof that technical and scientific research is always necessary for the progress of societies and of Humanity as a whole. Spain must again garner the greatest support possible for research, because it is a sine qua non to be able to progress and better compete, essential to our prestige and capacity to help others and, above all, for our own well-being.

Irish writer John Banville has received the Award for Literature. Reading Banville’s novels reveals an author with a finely honed prose, replete with gleams of beauty. For that reason he has been described as a pure writer, one happily obsessed with words, a lover of sentences. That is also why the descriptions in his novels constitute pieces of major Art with a capital A, pieces of an imagined reality that always manage to move the reader. All this reveals his intense love for the written word, his deep respect for literature and a capacity for expressing beauty and its different forms that amazes us.

In his original language or in the magnificent Spanish translations of his books, John Banville emerges as a virtuoso possessing a mastery of language that allows him, under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, to write works of an entirely different tone and theme, works written with a faster-paced, more efficient style, though nonetheless intense.

The reverie in which he states he writes envelops his work in a special, distinctive light; a light on which the colours of reality constantly depend, as his much admired James Joyce put it.

The Award for International Cooperation has been conferred on the Fulbright Program, sponsored by the United States Government and currently active in 150 countries. Knowledge, reason and compassion are the three words that the creator of the program, Senator Fulbright, used to define its aims. Three words that explain the intense activity the Program has undertaken since 1946 and the excellence it has maintained, preserved and fomented since then.

The Fulbright Program is an instrument for peace and friendship among nations, which, as our fellow countryman Jovellanos stated more than 200 years ago, are more prosperous and fortunate when their prime fountainhead is a public education of excellence. With this same conviction, those in charge of the Fulbright Program are well aware that their work is a form of cultural exchange, dialogue and understanding. It is, in short, an experience based on the defence and avowal of the highest values of the human spirit and hence has borne the best fruits and will continue to do so in the future.

Since the late 1950s, Spain has enjoyed the benefits of the Fulbright Program through scholarships granted by the Fulbright Commission. Thanks to these scholarships, thousands of Spanish students have studied in the USA and thousands of Americans have likewise done so in Spain, thereby creating over the years a network of cooperation between our countries which –as I recalled last September at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York–share the same values of democracy and freedom.

This network is a symbol of the excellent relations that unite us and that –thanks to the exchange of knowledge, ideas, culture and science– have been strengthened and become more enduring. We are pleased that this is so and we are also confident this network will continue to be strengthened, much to the satisfaction of both countries.

The New York City Marathon, the most popular race of its kind held in the world, has received the Award for Sports this year. This is a race built on the enthusiasm of thousands of people –both professionals and amateurs– who enjoy running through city streets, transforming them for a few hours into a show of solidarity, effort, dignity and sportsmanship./p>

It is likewise a personal challenge for the participants, a race that provides the wonderful feeling of taking part in an extraordinary event that also attracts over two million spectators and which counts on the support of more than 9,000 volunteers. This all makes the New York City Marathon an example, a model of peaceful coexistence and unity, a sporting event created and held for the sole, engaging purpose of enjoying running together.

It is an authentic example of the grandeur of being united, of advancing together, with generosity and sportsmanship, looking to the horizon of a common goal shared by one and all.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, journalist Caddy Adzuba, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has received the Award for Concord.

As Gandhi put it so cogently, “The most atrocious of all bad acts committed by people is the silence of good people”. And Azduba does not wish to be silent… cannot be silent… is not willing for silence to spread over the barbarism and violence suffered by women and children in her country –and in many other countries–, because only through truth can answers and solutions be found to prevent, stop or repair these evil acts.

So Caddy Adzuba speaks out… asks why… says what is happening, repeats over and over again what she has experienced and suffered… what so many women and children experience and suffer, and, in so doing, opens the way for hope. She also strives to make us all understand that there is a need to shine light on the darkest realms of reality… that it is necessary to warn against the violation of human rights… to warn against injustice.

Caddy Adzuba’s brave, self-sacrificing and perilous work makes us think of all the innocent victims that this woman wishes to give voice to. They experience a horror that we wish did not exist, one that we even find impossible to believe does exist.

Today, from this corner of Spain, we presume to look Caddy Adzuba in the eye to thank her for her commitment to such a worthy cause and to recognize her heroic conduct, which we admire, respect and staunchly support.

But, while maintaining her gaze, full of strength and hope, we cannot overlook the pain and anguish that the recent epidemic of Ebola is generating in Africa. A severe crisis that forces the international community to coordinate and commit more effort with greater efficiency to fighting the virus and its global contagion, and to treating those affected.

And in this fight, inspiring stories of dedication, generosity and professionalism stand out in which doctors, healthcare workers, scientists, members of religious orders, voluntary workers and soldiers play the major role. Our thanks go to all of them and, particularly, to our compatriots for showing us we can trust in their competence and capacities; they are –you are– Spain’s pride.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 24th September 1980 ─at a truly trying time– hope was born in Asturias. That hope lives on, as our Awards are today admired and respected throughout the world. Today, more than ever, we need them as a stimulus and inspiration in these crucial, intense times of renewal. Society needs moral references to admire and respect; ethical principles to recognize and observe; civic values to preserve and foster.

And this social awareness is the one we must use to bolster our coexistence. It is this necessary, collective, moral drive with which we can –and should– make Spain a nation of hope, full of life and thought; full of ideas worthy of its citizens’ trust; of projects that appeal to the minds and will of one and all and conquer our hearts.

With these convictions, we will dispel the pessimism, distrust and disenchantment of many citizens who so admirably demonstrate a capacity of endeavour and sacrifice worthy of all respect.

We also want a Spain devoid of division and discord. For that reason, on 19th June I indicated before the Spanish Parliament the duty and need to guarantee and ─at the same time─ revitalize our coexistence.

For the last 35 years or more, our democracy has not resulted from improvisation, but from the determined will of the Spanish people to establish social and democratic rule of law in Spain, based on the principles of freedom and equality, justice and pluralism; a state in which all of us –citizens and institutions alike– are equally subject to said rule of law.

Respecting and observing this constitutional, democratic framework is the guarantor of our coexistence in freedom. It is the necessary guarantor enabling all Spaniards to exercise their rights, enabling institutions and citizens to fulfil their duties and assume their responsibilities, and allowing our shared existence to function in an orderly fashion.

However, we must take care of and foster this coexistence.

Let us look to our history with serenity, objectivity and wisdom. Let us recognize its fortunes and misfortunes, and let us learn from all of them so as not to commit ─not to repeat─ the errors of the past. Because Spain has never before attained the surge of progress we have achieved thanks to the efforts of one and all, especially in recent decades. Let us therefore be proud of how much we have done together… and done so well.

However, we not only have a common history. We share common interests and values; we have one and the same desire to belong to Europe… to be Europe. Above all, we share sentiments. We Spaniards are no longer each other’s rivals. We journey the same path. What is more, I am convinced that understanding, consideration, affection and mutual respect are sentiments rooted deep in the heart of all Spaniards; sentiments shared from north to south and east to west. And we must never forget –much less forego– these sentiments. Quite the contrary; we must preserve and nurture them.

Also let us value what we are doing –with enormous sacrifice and effort on the part of many Spaniards– to jointly overcome one of the deepest economic crises in our recent history.

And let us be aware that, like any advanced society, we must face the future with the strength required of us by a different world to the one we have known; a world that walks towards greater integration and not the opposite. It is a complex future, of course; but one brimming with new opportunities. That is one of the greatest challenges we face as a country. Let us work together then ─as I also indicated on 19th June─, each with our individual traits, on an inclusive project, owned and shared by one and all, looking always to the future.

In short, let us follow the wise advice of Unamuno. “Create wealth, create a homeland, create art, create science, create ethics.” Sage words that must resonate with the force with which they have withstood time, without aging.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Laureates are the Foundation’s greatest assets. Individuals and institutions convinced that with courage, honour and generosity, the most challenging goals can be achieved. They are, in short, individuals and institutions that dedicate their existence to others, to us all. Today we recognize their merits and the value of their works.

For, as our dear Vicente Ferrer said, doing good serves to fill a lifetime. Doing good to others, ladies and gentlemen, serves to endow life with meaning.

Thank you.

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