Tenth anniversary FPdGi, FPdGi Awards

Speech by H. M. the King

I am sure it will come as no surprise to hear that listening to our daughter, the Princess of Asturias and of Girona, talking to you this evening makes the Queen and I extremely happy, because we are once again watching Princess Leonor begin to take on her responsibilities with enthusiasm and a sense of duty.

We are also pleased that she has done so, as she herself just mentioned, in a city and a land that hold a very special place in her heart. But, above all, we are delighted that she is here with us today, together with her sister Infanta Sofía, to share our satisfaction in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Princess of Girona Foundation – a title she bears with pride, aware of its historical and institutional significance.

So, from here, the Catalan capital, we want to spread the word to Spain’s other cities about everything the Foundation, from its home in Girona, has managed to offer to thousands of young people during its first ten years of existence. And we do so with a broad vision, a desire to include everyone, and a clearly innovative vocation, in the hope of reaching further every day and having an increasingly more constructive and useful impact on young people.      

“Forever committed to youth” is the slogan the Foundation has chosen to define its mission. When, in 2009, various entities, organisations and respected representatives from civil society in Girona and Catalonia created what was then known as the Prince of Girona Foundation, they aspired to establish it as a benchmark for supporting young people. To achieve this goal, the Foundation has been helped by the drive and generosity of its Board of Trustees, which has grown steadily over the years to include almost 90 leading entities from all over Spain which together form its main governing body.

In addition to this Board, there is also an Advisory Council, formed of renowned experts and professionals from very diverse fields, whose proposals take shape and are put into action thanks to the Foundation’s dedicated team. So, please allow me to address my first words of gratitude on this tenth anniversary to its founders, to the many other people who have supported the Foundation from the very start and to the two presidents the Foundation has had: Toni Esteve and Francisco Belil.

I would also like to thank all the guest speakers and artists who have joined us this evening: thank you Hugh and Nathalie for coming from afar to share with us your perspectives on science, technology and the future; also on what we are capable of doing as humans to overcome obstacles and improve our and other people’s lives; and how wonderful to listen to you, Auxiliadora, Soleá and Sole − and also Pablo, albeit long distance. Your generosity will always be remembered by those of us lucky enough to have been here today.

Now let’s turn to our 2019 Princess of Girona Foundation Award winners. I would like to start by congratulating the five of them, Ignacio, Rafael, Begoña, Xavier and Maria.

These extraordinary young people join a community made up of almost fifty professionals from the worlds of business, the arts and literature, social commitment and scientific research who, over the past ten years, have also been in the same position on stage as our winners today, thanks to the impeccable work of the different expert juries. At the start of this event, one of the Foundation’s staunchest supporters, Antonella Broglia, took us back over the history of the Awards, through the voices of some of the winners. Emotion and pride are the words that best define what those of us here today have felt.

This ceremony that I now bring to a close has also been made possible thanks to the work of two award winners from previous editions: Rafael Villalobos, who is in charge of the stage management, and Andrés Salado, guiding us with his baton throughout the evening. You do not know how much your generous and enthusiastic involvement means to the Foundation and to us on a day like today. Thank you both from all of us.

I would now like to say a few words to each of this year’s winners:

Last February, the jury for the 2019 Business Award, meeting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, recognised how neurologist Ignacio Hernández Medrano applied his ten years of experience in the neurology service of the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid to setup Savana, an artificial intelligence platform that can accelerate and expand medical research, as well as increase the quality of patient care. Savana is capable of reading and analysing the data from millions of clinical cases —more than 180 million, at the moment— to generate predictive models that anticipate the best treatment for each patient.

Ignacio is also the brains behind Mendelian, a search engine for rare diseases that allows healthcare professionals to diagnose cases more rapidly.

The Princess of Girona Foundation’s goal is to help our young people build a better future for themselves and for the society they live in. The work of Ignacio Hernández Medrano is a perfect example of this aim.

The 2019 Award in the Arts and Literature category on this occasion went to theatre director from Seville Rafael Rodríguez Villalobos. Trained in Madrid, Barcelona and Rome, Rafael has presented his work in Italy, Germany, Hungary and the United Kingdom in productions that have received both critical and public acclaim. The jury particularly wanted to highlight Rafael’s ability to create deeply appealing visual universes, but also his vision of opera as a tool for social and individual construction, based on contemporary interpretations that seek to engage in an honest dialogue with the public.

Rafael’s work shows clear parallels with the Foundation’s actions. As he himself reminds us, a theatre director is, at the end of the day, in charge of coordinating the talent of many people, something which, as you well know, forms part of the DNA of our Foundation.

Very early on, Rafael understood how essential it was to share his talent with the performers, artists and collaborators in order to bring his own and the rest of his team’s ideas to life on stage. At the Foundation we identify very strongly with this style of teamwork, in which the best possible results are always produced by bringing multiple talents and perspectives together.

In March, the 2019 Social Award was announced in Cáceres, going to social entrepreneur Begoña Arana Álvarez. From the age of 17, Begoña has been helping the most disadvantaged people in her native city, dedicating much of her time to searching for alternatives to improve the lives of those most in need. Collaborating with places such as Algeciras Penitentiary Centre and as a member of the Campo de Gibraltar child and youth protection team, Begoña immediately recognised the importance of fighting for a much fairer society and greater equality in the exercise of basic human rights. Driven by this goal, she created her initiative Nuevo Hogar Betania, which seeks to generate opportunities in a highly vulnerable socioeconomic context.

The Foundation has known from the very beginning that our young people have a great responsibility, as we live in a fast-changing world filled with increasingly complex uncertainty. With this in mind, from its base in Girona, the Foundation works day after day to provide young people with the tools they need to face these new challenges. And this is exactly what the jury saw in Begoña: her management capacity and resilience in providing a resource aimed at generating opportunities in an extremely complex context, and in a historic moment that calls for spaces where people can come together and feel part of a more just world where people are treated with dignity.

It was in Santiago de Compostela where the winner of the 2019 Scientific Research category was announced: Barcelona native Xavier Ros-Otón. Despite still being in his early thirties, this young man, trained in Spain, the United States and Switzerland, is one of the mostbrilliant mathematicians with the greatest global impact. The international mathematical community has recognised him as one of the most influential researchers thanks to his work on partial differential equations; such a vital contribution that last year Xavier was the most cited mathematician of his age in the world.

Perhaps some of the younger members of our audience will be surprised to hear —or maybe not…— what Xavier admitted a few months ago: that some of the things he was taught in his maths classes at secondary school seemed really boring to him at the time. It was his involvement in different academic competitions that sparked his interest in research in this subject. Over the years, Xavier learnt that, in science, and particularly in mathematics, it is vital to ask yourself the right questions in order for society to progress.

Although the Foundation’s activity over these first ten years has mainly focused on ourcountry, it has always had a global vocation. As we have just heard, “All youth are one”: young people in Girona or Barcelona share many, many things in common with other young people anywhere else in the world. Their aspirations and the challenges they will have to face in the coming years are the same.

For this reason, and coinciding with its 10th anniversary, the Foundation has created the new International Award to recognise the professional and personal achievements of young people anywhere in the world who stand out for their work, their merit and their exemplarity.

The jury for this new category, meeting in Girona last June, chose young Arab-Israeli lawyer and psychologist Maria Jammal, cofounder and managing director of the NGO Humanity Crew, for raising awareness of the mental health problems suffered by refugees and for creating solutions to help them. Since its creation in 2015, Humanity Crew, made up of 250 volunteers, has assisted 13,000 people and provided 35,000 hours of psychological support.

Maria knows that there is no health without mental health, and that is why she is calling on governments to place it firmly at the heart of their humanitarian aid strategies. It was truly moving to listen to her speak a moment ago.

Maria, Xavier, Begoña, Rafael, Ignacio. On behalf of all of us, and particularly those ofus at the Foundation, please accept our warmest congratulations and heartfelt gratitude for all your efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would now like to continue in Catalan again, as I always do when I have the opportunity to visit Catalonia and as the Princess of Girona has done today for the first time.

There are times when simply being present takes on much greater significance than words; times in which, through our attitudes, we also express deeply held convictions and feelings. And today is one of those times, one of those important occasions.

Attending this event today are hundreds of young people, from Catalonia and many other parts of Spain, who represent a youth population that is concerned about and committed to its future.

Today we are delighted to have among us people who represent some very important entities and associations in our society.

Also here today are representatives of the main institutions of our democratic and constitutional State, accompanying the Princess of Girona Foundation here in Barcelona, not just on its 10th anniversary, but above all in everything the Foundation represents: its principles and values, its essential goal since it was created ten years ago: to help our young people.

It is a message of commitment to our youth and their future of those who today embody the highest democratic representation of our society; a people who decided over 40 years ago to reunite in order to live together in freedom under democratic principles; to recognise the great value in their diversity and with loyalty and trust to face the challenge of overcoming the past and building a modern, advanced society, integrated into Europe and open to the world.

And in this great democratic project that unites us all, in this desire not to bring our history to a halt again, not to miss out on the evolution of the times, Catalonia’s contribution was an inspiration to the rest of Spain. A Catalonia proud of its identity, plural and inclusive, constructive and supportive of overall progress; in which effort, responsibility, commitment, respect and civic-mindedness nourished the roots of the democratic society we live in today.

These values represent, without doubt, the best history of Catalonia; they must not, nor cannot be a memory of the past, but an effective reality in our present and our future. A reality in which there is no place for violence, intolerance or contempt for the rights and freedoms of others.

It is these values and principles that led to the creation of the Foundation. They have fostered involvement and enthusiasm. They have united many Catalans and countless other people from all over our country. They are the principles and values that we recognise and are celebrating today at this event in Catalonia; they give meaning to our work at the Foundation now and drive it towards the future. From Catalonia towards the rest of Spain, to Europe and the world of the twenty-first century.

A world in which our young people cannot live isolated lives, trapped within airtight borders. A world in which today’s frontiers are defined by knowledge, training, education, research; and also the humanistic values that inspire the defence of a more just, more caring, more sustainable world.

A world in which learning about cultures other than our own is enriching and exciting, in which embracing new ideas in our way of thinking helps us refine our own interior worlds and our vision of things; in which travelling to different places improves us and lends us new perspectives; in which having solid role models and leaders who are passionate but peaceful −like our winners–, help us face the uncertainty of the times we are living in.

The impact on thousands of young people’s lives made by the actions, initiatives and programmes promoted by the FPdGi in its first decade is extremely satisfying and fills us with pride. From Girona and its counties, and from every corner of Spain, the Foundation will continue to accompany young people on their journey, helping them to build their future, their personal and professional life projects.

Finally, I said a few minutes ago that there are times when gestures and attitudes are much more eloquent than words.

And so, to all of you here today, and especially the FPdGi, I applaud you and offer you all my encouragement and my heartfelt and profound recognition for ten years of hard work carried out effectively and full of enthusiasm and commitment to Catalonia, to all of Spain, to all young people and their futures.

Thank you very much.



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