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Speech by HM The King at the 2015 Princess of Asturias Awards Ceremony

We return yet another year, with the emotion of always, to this beloved capital of Asturias to hold the great celebration of culture that our Awards comprise. We return to recognize and distinguish those who make a major contribution to the progress and the understanding of humanity; to those whose work, excellence, genius and commitment sustain the deep-rooted values which we ultimately trust define us as human beings.

Time and again we have heard here, in this Campoamor Theatre in Oviedo: humanity is facing serious challenges the solutions to which are not easy to find. Yet, as human beings we continue to have hope in the future. We try to move forward each day on the path of cooperation and dialogue, because we believe that concord, justice and peace can –and must– prevail.

Those of us who wish for a world in which solidarity and a dignified life for all are the norm constitute an overwhelmingly majority; and we follow the example of those who, like our Laureates, speak out courageously and responsibly to protect the weak, the disadvantaged, the most defenceless. As each day passes, more and more of us wish for the thirst for for knowledge and understanding, the passion for discovery, creation or imagination, and the drive to excel to be the authentic drivers of progress and civilization; always within a spirit of concord among cultures and in harmony with our planet.

We accordingly express our gratitude to all those who feel a commitment to our goals and to those who support to us; most especially our Trustees and Patrons, as well as the Juries, who contribute to the success of each edition of our Awards with their independent, responsible efforts.

We likewise express our gratitude –and render a most special tribute─ to this beloved land of Asturias, which has never forsaken the nation of Spain as a whole. Here, it offers its soil, its name and its drive to this beacon of culture and concord that constitute the Prizes Princess of Asturias. For that reason, our thanks to all Asturians for sharing that which best characterizes them with the rest of Spaniards now and always. Our heartfelt thanks to all Asturias.

Our most sincere congratulations also go out to our Laureates, the leading lights of this event, and to whom I shall now address my words:

  1. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, Laureate for the Arts, is the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Simply by citing these two titles alone, among the prodigious and magnificent list of films he has made, we can all immediately identify this great artist of unmistakeable talent. Who has not experienced intense emotion when watching his movies? Who has not been touched by them? Coppola’s work poeticizes both the grandeur and failings of human beings; and as only mystifyingly occurs in the case of unique, universal artists, it tends towards these two –often-unattainable and elusive horizons– dignity and beauty.
    He has stated that one should not be afraid to copy the great, those who are admired without reservation. Coppola actually follows in the wake of great directors like Kurosawa and Fellini, yet converts imitation into an aesthetic creed which, in fact, seeks out goals never before attained. His role models serve as watchtowers from which to reinterpret and renew the gamut of human passions ever more wisely and effectively.
    Corruption, ambition, envy, cruelty, hypocrisy, fear, cowardice, but also love, tenderness, friendship and loyalty are thus transformed in the eyes of the viewer into complex, delicate tapestries –often larger than life– which are not only aesthetically striking, but are also able to purge the emotions.
  2. French economist Esther Duflo has received the Award for Social Sciences. For years now, Duflo has engaged in the noble task of finding effective ways to combat extreme poverty and explain why many of the initiatives taken in this area fail.
    Duflo, who co-heads a team of more than 100 researchers from the Poverty Action Lab at MIT, does not believe in any magical, quick, radical or definitive ways to overcome poverty in the world. Rather, she prudently believes –without preconceptions– that each culture, each people, must find their own way in line with their own circumstances and idiosyncrasies. This way of approaching the problem is clearly more innovative, original and effective.
    The title of her most successful book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, provides us with the keys to the path followed by Duflo: the policies with which this change is brought about must be transformed; without clichés or ideas conceived a priori. By listening to the poor, she states, by subjecting every idea to rigorous empirical testing, we shall better understand the complexity of their circumstances.
    She has also stated that there is a natural impulse in humans to alleviate the suffering of others; and that we therefore have a moral obligation to continue to believe that this transformation is possible.
  3. The illustrious Spanish philosopher Emilio Lledó has been granted the Award for Communication and Humanities, two core concepts in his prolific body of work.
    Today, in these times of uncertainty and concern, we entreat him to advise and guide us with his teaching and with the authority resulting from his many years of study, reflection and hard work. We have the happy opportunity to entreat him not to relent in his efforts to teach what constitutes, for him, the path to happiness, which, according to the enlightened scholars, is founded on the wellbeing of every citizen.
    I wish to mention one such scholar here this afternoon, Jovellanos, so as to underscore everything that Emilio Lledó suggests as necessary on the path towards an ethical, transcendent and dignified life: “What matters,” wrote Jovellanos, “is the perfecting of education and the improving of public instruction (…) a nation needs nothing more than the right to assemble and talk. If it is well-informed, its freedom will ever prevail; never fail.”
    I am convinced that Emilio Lledó subscribes to these words, as all that he has written and taught over the years stresses the need for us as humans to communicate and fulfil ourselves through words, as well as our obligation to improve and protect education; for solid, deep-rooted education is essential to consolidate a society that is free, confident, fair and trusting... in short, a society that is happy.
    Emilio Lledó considers that Spain not only needs those responsible for guaranteeing education to devote themselves fully to this task, but that it also deserves this. For all these reasons, we restate this evening, Professor Lledó, that we need your insight and wisdom –above all the younger generations– so as to tread the path to a sounder, more luminous future.
  4. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, joint recipients of the Award for Technical and Scientific Research, are two scientists renowned worldwide for having developed a revolutionary technology that enables the modification of genes with great precision. They have managed to transform the immune system developed by bacteria over hundreds of millions of years of evolution into a tremendously powerful tool to study and modify genes in any species, be it animal or plant.
    The impact of their work has been enormous in all areas of biology, both basic and applied. As it is a very effective tool for replacing or correcting genes in human cells, it offers great potential to cure genetic diseases, thereby raising hopes for effective gene therapy. Charpentier and Doudna joined forces to develop their research and provide science with new ways of working in a truly fascinating field brimming with excitement and expectation.
    Genome editing is also a field of scientific research in which collaboration, the coordinated work of different teams and the firm determination to use the discoveries and inventions for the benefit of society are all fundamental. Both Charpentier and Doudna are aware of the importance of safeguarding the ethical dimension of research. Both have also called for more support for science and, above all, for more aid for young scientists. ·These are desires we endorse, because, as we have often stated: it is necessary to improve the mechanisms of support and funding for science and encourage the committed support of society to all those who devote their lives to scientific creativity and innovation, as their efforts constitute the guarantee of our future development and prosperity.
  5. The Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, two of the greatest basketball players in the world, have received the Award for Sports in recognition of the talent, commitment and self-sacrifice with which they have attained their lofty sporting merits.
    The memories and emotions of the recent European gold medal won by our national team −to whom we reiterate our congratulations from here− are still very much alive in our thoughts. Pau and Marc are two players who are openly proud of and excited about their triumphs and who play with the conviction that working as part of a team and continually demonstrating the many virtues that make them shine and stand out as athletes are as important as their own training as all-round athletes.
    We send them our fondest congratulations and extend out greetings to the members of their family who are present at this ceremony on their behalf.li>
  6. Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, Laureate for Literature, once more brings to this event literature in Spanish through a body of work which evocatively embraces Havana, its neighbourhoods, its people and its history.
    As he himself has stated, he belongs to a generation that has lived and suffered intensely and he feels a great sense of belonging to his milieu, to the literature, history and contemporary reality of Cuba. His land and his life there are thus inseparable in his work, which is always enveloped in a melancholy and germane air that makes it so appealing and familiar, especially for those of us who hold Cuba in our hearts, as do we Spaniards.
    Padura is one of the leading writers of his generation and has authored a series of crime novels featuring the detective Conde, a novel that has reaped huge success, The Man Who Loved Dogs, screenplays, short stories and essays, as well as collections of his interviews and reports.
    All his works enable him to speak of disappointment, failure, disillusionment, corruption and, at the same time, the beauty and serenity of happy days awash with joy and enthusiasm. With a leisurely pace, a gentle cadence infected by the light, sounds and colours of Havana’s streets, Leonardo Padura builds a world of contrasts in which the word, literature and truth prevail.
  7. The digital encyclopedia Wikipedia, this year’s Award for International Cooperation, is one of the tools that technology has made available to us in recent years and has forever changed the way we approach knowledge and search for data and information on whatever topic. It has also changed the possibilities we have to report and provide information to other people, as every one of us can become an editor. This way, Wikipedia seeks to place culture within the reach of the largest number of people possible, with a clear desire to expand knowledge, to generalize and make knowledge accessible.
    Millions of volunteers worldwide add to and improve Wikipedia content every day in a ceaseless endeavour which, since 2001, constitutes an outstanding example of international cooperation.
    We reward a brilliant and generous idea, a way of working that constitutes a universal symbol of teamwork; we reward an encyclopedia that goes far beyond the mere accumulation of data, as it is governed by strict ethical principles that seek to make it reliable, useful and user friendly.
    Wikipedia aspires to be neutral, to offer free content. It seeks to avoid sterile dialectic confrontations and be open, inclusive and welcoming, instead. As its founder, Jimmy Wales, has stated, Wikipedia is beautiful because it is an instrument full of multiple references that allow users to delve deeper into topics, into their sources and accompanying literature. Wikipedia is, in short, a civilizing element, a gift to universal culture.
  8. The Award for Concord, granted to the Hospitaller Order of St John of God, brings to mind the words that I dedicated last year on this very stage to all those people, especially in Africa, fighting poverty and diseases such as Ebola with commitment, generosity and professionalism, and in particular to so many Spanish voluntary workers and members of religious orders working selflessly all over the globe to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Words that I wish to repeat again now: they are all − you are all − Spain’s true pride.
    The Hospitaller Order is exemplary in this endeavour. The Hospitaller Brothers, who know human pain close-up, perform a thankless task, but one inherent in their raison d’être, their faith, their sense of duty. Their example, their sublime embodiment of compassion and charity, generosity and joy, is also therefore a constant wake-up call to us all.
    When their work bears witness to true life, we know that, without their commitment, without their compassion, we would all be a little more lonely, a little more defenceless. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their work, for their humble, yet grand labours; we thank them for their love, which allows us to hear the expressions of gratitude and consolation, even amidst deafening screaming or the deafening silence which, unfortunately, is often complicit and guilt-ridden.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Laureates,

“Everything we do (…) rests on, is understood and justified through the undeniable background of what we have been. To be is, essentially, to be memory.” These words by our Laureate Emilio Lledó allow us to duly value and appreciate the memory of the 35 years of history, which the Prince of Asturias Awards, now the Princess of Asturias Awards, now celebrate.

Yet, if to be is, essentially, “to be memory”, I wish to affirm here today that to be is also “to be the future”; to be is also to wish to build the best future possible for all on the solid foundations of the undertaking that we have raised together. Bearing the name of the Princess de Asturias, our daughter Leonor, the Awards are now ready to sustain with their impetus the new stage that we have already initiated.

The history of the Foundation is a compendium of what we have progressively imagined and built over the years, always with great enthusiasm. The Awards are also a model that illustrates how we want Spain to be strengthened, with what ideals and aspirations, what values we wish to do so.

Because, without painting, sculpture, music or architecture, ─without the Arts─, our life would be incomplete; we would be less human, we would live without their light and joy; we would be spiritually poorer. Because Literature ─ words, verses, the immortals personages that have come into being from the imagination and fantasy of writers─, enable us to comprehend feelings, live lives and experience worlds that we would never know otherwise.

Because Technical and Scientific Research is the key to invent, discover and create, ever striving to make our lives more human, accompanied by the ambition to understand and explain the world.

Because the Social Sciences and Communication and Humanities invite us to delve deep into human nature, into human beings in society and their historical development; and our Laureates in this category trace out, as Octavio Paz stated on receiving the award conferred on the magazine Vuelta, “a kind of moral, intellectual map of our culture”, of the best of our culture, we might add.

Sport highlights the values of effort, discipline, commitment to a team and, ultimately, the greatness of spirit in the pursuit of victory and the acceptance of defeat. Finally, the Awards for International Cooperation and Concord, which bring emotion and affection to this theatre, are the synthesis of the finest virtues, because rewarding those who defend peace and freedom, universal heritage, human rights or the environment, is really an act of justice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Laureates,

George Steiner, our Laureate for Communication and Humanities in 2001, suggested that we are simply guests of life on this planet and as such, we must show our respect, above all, to human beings, to their rights and their dignity.

Let us sincerely and honestly reflect on and value what we Spaniards have built together, what unites and strengthens us; let us turn away from what separates and weaken us; and let us turn away, especially, from anything that seeks to point out, differentiate or reject others.

For that reason, when emotional walls are raised –or divisions are fomented–, something very deep is broken within us, within our very being, within our hearts. May no one build walls with feelings. Divisions will never make a people great; they only impoverish and isolate. Let us avoid social fractures that cause so much damage to the consciences of people, to affections, friendship and families, to relationships between citizens.

In any democratic society like ours, the defence of the law and constitutional principles is the guarantee of the rights and freedoms of all citizens. We Spaniards must therefore preserve the coexistence that fortifies and enriches our collective life.

Let us continue building Spain, convinced and most aware that a European Nation with a universal vocation and roots that go back over a thousand years, like ours, will continue united on its path towards a future of greater concord and progress, with the dignity, respect and pride that its history and memory deserves.

This is what I encourage you to do on this evening of gratitude and joy; and I will also encourage all of us to be worthy someday, thanks to the example of our Laureates –Steiner stated– most honourable guests of life.

Thank you.

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