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Speech by HM The King at the 2017 Princess of Asturias Awards Ceremony

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, on bestowing the Princess of Asturias Awards, I wish to begin by reaching out with affection and solidarity to the thousands of people who in Galicia, Asturias, Castile and León and in our sister nation of Portugal who have suffered the consequences of the terrible fires in the last few days. We share in the deep sorrow of the victims’ families and convey our recognition to all those in both nations who fought in an exemplary manner against this form of tragedy that only brings about destruction, poverty and death. Our tribute goes out from here to the professionals, volunteers and members of these communities who have lent themselves so tenaciously to that struggle.

As in each edition of the Awards –and for four years now, with our daughter The Princess of Asturias in mind–, The Queen and I attend this event with the conviction that the finest human values will once again inundate the Campoamor Theatre this evening with gratitude and recognition; feelings we dedicate to exceptional men and women, extraordinary projects and achievements, and which we wish to share with the rest of the world. To be able to do so, we have always counted on the generous commitment of the Princess of Asturias Foundation Trustees, the unconditional support of our Jury members, and, above all, on the commitment of the people of Asturias; of the beloved Asturian people who always welcome us with such hospitality and affection. To all these, thank you yet again.

Our Awards inspire hope. They show us the profound meaning of creative freedom, love of knowledge, art, culture, solidarity and justice. They testify to the importance of effort, of persevering on the right path to bring valuable undertakings to fruition, ones that endure and are worthwhile. They remind us that there are people whose work always seeks to produce the finest fruits, those of the highest virtues and the greatest talents of human beings, represented here by our Laureates, whom we wholeheartedly congratulate and warmly welcome to Asturias and Spain.

We accordingly offer our thanks to all the Laureates who, with their superb talent and commitment, help us address some of the most positive aspects of life, existence and the world. For it is at the worst moments, in the most difficult times, when we frequently and clearly evoke all that is positive and good. All that is intrinsically and deeply human and makes us better and encourages us to be more just, honest and confident. I speak of art, literature, science, culture, thought, solidarity and concord.

Today, on recognizing their great work, we also wish to state that we are sincerely and deeply proud of them. Particularly on this occasion, alongside the undoubted excellence and brilliance of the individual Laureates, I also wish to stress the fact that this great work is characterized in several categories by qualities such as sincere collaboration, joint effort, teamwork, and unity of purpose, which always contribute to achieving the highest and most successful results.

Our Laureates for Technical and Scientific Research, Doctors Rainer Weiss, Kip S. Thorne and Barry C. Barish and the more than 1,000 researchers from a hundred institutions in 18 different countries that make up the LIGO Scientific Collaboration work together in this way, as a solid team. A true example of how a major project requires a great deal of participation, in addition to firm, well-defined goals.

Their greatest ambition lies in knowing a little more each day, in discovering, analyzing and understanding reality, even when the reality they study is as difficult for the layperson to understand as in this case, in which they delve into the enigmas of the Universe following in the steps of Einstein and his prodigious intelligence.

Thanks to the fact that we know that the ultimate goal of their dedication is to improve human life, to reinforce progress and enhance our well-being on Earth, we also know that recognitions like the one we offer them here today reward only a mere part of their efforts. Yet our desire is for them to know that they are not alone; that we look on their work with deep admiration and respect, and offer them our endless thanks.

The Hispanic Society of America, the recipient of the Award for International Cooperation, came into being as a result of the passion and generosity of one man, Archer M. Huntington. Above all, however, it combines in its essence the ideals of unity in diversity and the cultivation and protection of tradition and history.

The Hispanic Society is indeed the result of Huntington’s enormous generosity, but also of his deep love for the millenary culture of the Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking communities, their historical evolution and their traditions… and of his respect for all this. Moreover, that love and respect are patent in the beauty and consistency of his collection and in the initiatives that The Hispanic Society carries out to publicize its work and fight against oblivion; which is, as our laureate Todorov described it, a sad form of barbarity. Today, we recognize their shining efforts from this ever grateful land of Asturias.

Les Luthiers, our Laureates for Communication and Humanities, work by focussing on everything that makes us smile and even laugh out loud. A sense of humour is inherent in their now long-standing and fartravelled career. This sense of humour –or their humour set to music– is accompanied by an amazing and precise capacity for reflection, a great deal of intelligent observation and a large pinch of culture. These, the basic ingredients of their music and shows, have earned them huge international success; above all, among the Spanishspeaking world.

Today, on presenting them with this Award, we do so with a smile in our heart and mind, recalling those incredible and prodigious instruments born of their tireless and admirable creativity. We can never thank them enough for so many hours of laughter and good humour; so many hours recognizing, through their jokes, our shortcomings, mistakes and flaws; jokes which at the same time seem to contain a remedy to or refuge from the effects of these failings. They themselves will, I am sure, allow me to pay a special tribute to the absent, but ever-present Daniel Rabinovich.

Probably no one here today at this ceremony is more aware of the value of loyalty and companionship than the All Blacks, who have received the Award for Sports. For them, teamwork and collaboration are the norm. They share a common passion, rugby. Rugby played as it should be, not just to win, but also to put into practice on the field the finest virtues of the all-round athlete: fair play, camaraderie, solidarity, good manners and respect.

The All Blacks are also an example of diversity, of the fusion of cultures and traditions; a priceless example, especially for children and young people the world over, who should learn to practice sport –any sport– with a spirit of solidarity, inclusiveness and fraternity. Here today we place the spotlight on this exemplary attitude and thank them with very special admiration.

Our Laureates know well what it means to work as a team, combining effort and talent, seeking common success, sharing knowledge, enthusiasm and endeavour. However, they also know the value of working alone, the benefits of which ultimately and fortunately reach us all.

That is what occurs with the work of our Laureate for Social Sciences, British thinker Karen Armstrong, who has known how to define, with the utmost precision, the meaning of the word ‘compassion’. For her, transforming compassion into a clear, luminous and dynamic force is an urgent necessity. Only in this way can we transcend selfishness and use our full potential as intelligent, spiritual beings.

Her profound and documented studies on religions – in particular, Christianity, Islam and Judaism– above all reveal that, as she herself affirms, “all the world’s faiths insist that true spirituality must be expressed consistently in practical compassion, the ability to feel with the other.” Not only are these statements courageous –for which we thank her–, but also necessary to recover peace of mind and a critical sense in this world so often full of noise, so often lacking in reflection.

Adam Zagajewski, who has received the Award for Literature, has suffered the pain of separation, violence, war and exile. Nonetheless, or perhaps for this very reason, he has lived his life attempting to seize the moment, that suspended moment in which all the beauty of the world can be condensed into a single verse.

Child of air, mint and cello, as he describes himself, he holds that one of his homelands is the truth, a truth he knows how to shape with each verse, in each moment of beauty that his eyes and spirit harvest and convert into poetry, in those trees that only he hears whispering, even on windless days. A sublime body of work, built on truth, authenticity and honesty. A body of work that we thank him for here today, while at the same time encouraging him to build on it, for we are convinced, as Miguel Torga wrote, it will give us courage to face the future.

It is said of William Kentridge, our Laureate for the Arts, that he is above all a master of drawing. We know, however, that his mastery goes much further. Via the forcefulness of his pencil strokes, ideas and creations, it delves deep into the human spirit and illuminates our complex condition, making it more understandable, truer, better.

Kentridge is closely aware of the suffering of discrimination, the injustice of apartheid and the pain endured for years by his fellow South Africans. He has managed to reflect this experience and his conscience as a privileged white man in an intense, committed and courageous oeuvre that has made him one of the world’s leading and most admired artists of our time, particularly on the African continent, whose cultural, political and social relations with other continents are, as the unforgettable Nelson Mandela put it on this very stage, “a proud and creative achievement of human-centred sensibility”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Laureates,

The European Union has received this year’s Award for Concord, in the year of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

Created in the wake of deep suffering, violence and dehumanization, the EU aspired to give back to millions of citizens something as essential as the hope of achieving a dignified life, governed by freedom, democracy and law. After so much upheaval, so much desolation, European citizens came together with both determination and clarity of mind to support a joint project of peace, solidarity and progress. They did so –and we continue to do so– so as to never allow ourselves to take a step backwards towards sectarianism, arbitrariness and division… towards horror.

Today, the then longed-for Europe is no longer a dream, but a reality. The Union, as the Minutes of the Jury recalls, has achieved the longest period of peace in modern Europe and has promoted its finest values –especially Human Rights– throughout the international community. It is an example of progress and well-being in times of uncertainty. It also represents democratic resolve against fanaticism; freedom versus tyranny; coexistence in the face of discord; culture versus ignorance.

Today, Europe faces new and serious challenges, and we are aware that, as a project, it is far from complete. Nonetheless, we should not allow the optimism and hope with which it came into being and its sound principles – shared today by millions of Europeans– to fade. For these challenges cannot alter our bond, our commitment and our drive to achieve an integrative process; which constitutes the greatest progress in terms of peace, development and social cohesion ever achieved by a group of united countries, in the loftiest spirit of fraternity and coexistence. To acknowledge this, to affirm it, is an exercise in honesty, justice and responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin this final part of my speech by once again thanking all the Laureates for their attendance here today, especially the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, who are accompanied by the President of the Court of Justice. Their presence here today in Asturias symbolizes the commitment, support and solidarity of the European institutions towards Spain, our constitutional system and our Social and Democratic State of Law.

Presidents, Spain has to face an unacceptable attempt at secession in a part of its national territory, and it will find a solution to this situation via its legitimate democratic institutions, respecting our Constitution and abiding by the values and principles of parliamentary democracy which have governed our lives for 39 years now.

During recent decades, we Spaniards have given continuity to our history, honouring our sovereign decision to live together in democracy. We have experienced and shared success and failure, triumph and sacrifice, which have united us in joy and suffering. We cannot forget this Just as we do not wish to –nor can we– renounce what we have built together, the sum of the contributions of one and all, thus constituting a truly valuable legacy that belongs to each and every one of us equally.

This has been possible thanks to a Spain whose foundations are based on a sincere desire for coexistence and understanding; on compliance with the rules and regulations of democracy; on recognizing with a sense of grandeur and generosity the mistakes of the past so as not to commit them again; a Spain in which all its citizens – regardless of their ideas, where they were born or lived– had the chance to find their place in peace and freedom, without worries or fears of arbitrariness or being imposition upon, safe from resentment and rupture.

Thanks also to a Spain with an open outlook and a sense of solidarity in which each and every Spaniard could recognize themselves, and in which its peoples saw their languages, cultures, traditions and institutions protected, recognized and respected, as a true common heritage that undeniably both enriches us and identifies us.

These are ideals which, like those that formed the raison d'être of the EU, should always be present. For no future project can be built by causing a rift in democratic coexistence; no project of progress and freedom can rest on disaffection, or on the ever painful and harrowing division of society, families and friends; and no project can lead to the isolation or impoverishment of a people.

Twenty-first-century Spain, of which Catalonia is and will continue to be an essential part, must be based on a loyal and united sum of efforts, feelings, affections and projects. A sum that continues to nourish our universal vocation, our legitimate pride in belonging to the great democratic reality that is Europe.

This is why Europe, the European Union, forms part of the very being of that Spain; a Union that transcends States while respecting all our identities and sensitivities; a Union that moves with the times, which undoubtedly moves towards greater integration and convergence. This is the sign of our times, of the world in which we live.

Presidents, Spaniards do not –and will not– forget that the Union has always been a reference for Spain both at the beginning and in the subsequent consolidation of our democracy; and that it has decisively enhanced our prosperity and well-being. You can be sure that the Union will find in our country an essential pillar of support and loyalty when addressing the new challenges that we are to face together. This is a path that must be trodden hand in hand with reason, discourse and respect for the rules of coexistence, inspired by three European principles that are also indivisible: democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The bestowal of our Awards in Oviedo has always been an act of recognition of civic values and moral principles. We have continued this tradition once again this evening, as we have been doing for 36 years now. Likewise, in these hard and difficult times in which we live, it is increasingly necessary to assert the democratic principles in which we believe and on which our life in common is based. These are times for a sense of responsibility; a responsibility that our citizens deserve. The very same citizens who wish to live in harmony and move forward in peace; citizens who daily offer up an example of sacrifice, dedication and commitment to their country. What’s more, I am very proud to uphold this here in Asturias, in this very beloved, ever admirable and loyal land.

Thank you

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