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Speech by H.R.H. the Prince of Asturias upon the establishment of the "Prince of Asturias Endowed Chair" at the University of New Mexico

EE.UU.(Albuquerque. Nuevo México), 04.10.2004


adies and Gentlemen: Good morning to you all.

Let me start by thanking the President of this University for his kind words of welcome as well as for the warm hospitality that -together with academic authorities and faculty- he has shown us here today.

Believe me, it is a great pleasure to be back at the University of New Mexico. This time I am fortunate and happy to come with my wife, the Princess of Asturias (Just married you see¡). And, as I said last time, it is truly an honour to lend my name to this new Chair that has been established. This visit, of a clear cultural and academic nature, provides us with the invaluable opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the magical State of New Mexico, which holds a strong historical, cultural and emotional link with Spain.

To be here and support any initiative aimed at strengthening our ties with the State of New Mexico and with the United States of America is something very dear to me; so, you can imagine how glad I am to see this University so close to Spain, and vice versa.

But why New Mexico? Why the UNM? Well, few academic centers are more renowned for their research capabilities and for their accredited Hispanic -and universal- outlook. This quality enables it to forge and consolidate new bonds between the Spanish and English speaking worlds.

As you probably know very well, the University of New Mexico is one of the Universities in the US where research has been growing fastest since 1990. It is one of the top in supercomputing and a world leader in optoelectronics and microelectronics; and you have a unique working partnership with the US Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque and Los Alamos National Lab. The UNM thus provides and excellent environment in Information, Science and Technology R andD that we hope will offer many opportunities for new partnerships and cooperation.

In addition, UNM has very strong ties with Ibero America. You have agreements with many Spanish Universities and over 40 universities, institutes, governments and other organizations in the Ibero-American region. Your own Latin American and Iberian Institute´s programs are considered one of the best in this country. ISTEC, the Ibero American Science and Technology Education Consortium, headquarted at this University, comprises more than 100 institutions throughout the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula.

Enough now¡ All this is far more than a sufficient reason to be here. But it also shows that the historical and cultural links between Spain and the United States -particularly with New Mexico- are not merely emotional: They are growing in substance in the form of collaboration between Spanish and New Mexican institutions, both private and public.

From a brilliant past to a very promising future, our cooperation explains how the Prince of Asturias Endowed Chair (established four years ago) has begun to attain to its goals quickly and successfully.

Spain on its part has a strong commitment to Research and Innovation in the understanding that it is the only way to build a knowledge-based economy that is able to sustain our future competitiveness and well-being. Our government recently approved a new Research, Development and Innovation Plan for the 2004-2007 period with ambitious initiatives, that include a yearly budget increase of 25% in funding to support it. This plan is in line with the agreement reached at the Barcelona European Council meeting in 2002, under the last Spanish Presidency of the European Union, by which a 3% of GDP investment goal in research was established for the year 2010.

We have to remember that our Country has had to catch-up, coming from a very disadvantaged starting point, in order to reach a current level of scientific and technological output that in general terms corresponds to our geopolitical and industrial weight in Europe. We can safely say that today Spain is among the top twelve countries that contribute most to science and technology, both in general terms and in the specific field of computing.

As we can see, this chair bearing my name, for which I am honoured, fits perfectly in the present framework of greater support to science and technology. Today's context determines that technological advances are essential to maintain, let alone to increase our competitiveness, and that international cooperation is ever more necessary due to globalization. So Spain's new impetus to reach out for the benefits of international science comes very timely and makes us feel very comfortable placing great hopes in the success of this project that is already a strong standing reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I have to say that to a large extent the Chair was born thanks to the initiative and vision of our dear friend Ambassador Ed Romero. His darn wish to build stronger ties between the U.S. and Spain-well, in this case more specifically New Mexico and Spain! - took him in to a fruitful search for a strategic partner who would offer with similar vision a generous sponsorship. As we all know Iberdrola, a leading power company in Spain and strong investor in the Americas, became such a partner. Its firm commitment to research, culture, the environment and sustainable development make it a perfect match. Their presence with us today is the testimony of such commitment and of their faith in the results to come.

Ultimately, as we all know this Chair was created in the field of computer science and information technology in full awareness of the socioeconomic impact that successful research in this field has on society, and fully understanding the potential of this scientific field to anticipate and meet society's future needs. The fact is that computer technology not only affects most other fields of scientific research -since computers are the common tool for all scientists, it can also be applied to most human activities in a developed society. No other discipline has changed our lives so profoundly in recent years; areas such as communications, transport, government and business administration, industry, social relations and interactions, art, medicine, sport... anything one can possibly think of! Those changes are not always risk-free and present us with many challenges that come both from the continuous and accelerating rate of new developments and our difficulty to digest them appropriately.

It is clear, therefore, that the vision and strategic sponsorship behind what we celebrate today made the correct choices, took the right decisions and since moved in the right direction. In these four years we have seen progress towards the consolidation and development of the chair: firstly, we now see Professor Manuel Hermenegildo - a great Spanish researcher from the Polytechnic University of Madrid- fill the chair. He is now Spain's technological ambassador to New Mexico.

We thank Prof. Hermenegildo - who is also an expert on Spanish technological policy and on higher education in the US - for his dedicated and exemplary work placing the chair on track and participating in a large amount of academic activities here in the university of New Mexico.

Second, we note the successful conclusion of the first selection process for Iberdrola's scholarship holders. Here they are, completing their training and working to master the fascinating skills of scientific research, to subsequently bring back their experience and knowledge back to Spain.

The Chair has also commenced its research program, already producing significant scientific and technological results in the area of improving software quality and reducing its costs. An achievement of great importance because, on the one hand, software is the real machinery of the information society, and on the other, software errors are, unfortunately, both common and costly; while the technology that is currently available for preventing them is complex and expensive.

Finally, a significant number of visits from Spanish researches to New Mexico have been promoted under the auspices of the Chair, thus enhancing the constant efforts of cooperation we all welcome between our countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I have outlined already proves how well the Chair is developing since it got underway, but upon our visit this morning I had the honor of presiding a meeting of its Advisory Committee. I am more than happy to say that what I heard at this meeting made me smile to the future, since approval was given to activities of great importance for the training of more young researchers. Also, it seems that additional and more ambitious agreements have been signed with Spanish universities and that these accords are expected to catalyze further initiatives in favor of the scientific and business communities in both countries.

All this is wonderful, but allow me to highlight one aspect of this bright future that has shown up with the establishment of the Prince of Asturias Endowed Chair: that is the growing interest and effort devoted to the protection and extension of the Spanish language. Something that New Mexicans feel very strong about and is a fundamental element of this State's culture. I am sure many of you remember Savine Ulibarri who wrote outstanding verses in Spanish but unfortunately is no longer with us; or Angel González, another poet and member of the UNM faculty, who continues to enrich our language with his writing and teaching. By the way, would like to congratulate him after his recent winning of the García Lorca poetry award.

Pero no es éste el único Estado en el que la lengua española crece en difusión y respeto. En efecto, y como es sabido, según los datos del censo del 2000, uno de cada diez estadounidenses mayor de cinco años habla español en su casa y dos de cada tres alumnos norteamericanos la eligen como segunda lengua. Pero, como decía el gran historiador Américo Castro, vivir culturalmente exige estar siempre alerta y nosotros debemos estarlo mirando al gran futuro de la lengua española como lengua de comunicación internacional al lado del inglés y también como instrumento de comunicación en el campo de las nuevas tecnologías.

A tal efecto, además de otras cualidades conocidas de nuestra lengua como son su facilidad de aprendizaje, el ser hablada en más de veinte naciones por más de 400 millones de personas y con creciente interés mundial como segunda o tercera lengua de aprendizaje, una de sus grandes ventajas desde el punto de vista de su creciente difusión en las redes de comunicación internacional, reside en su unidad. Y es que, a pesar de sus variedades de uso en los distintos países iberoamericanos, la estructura del idioma español es, en esencia, una, se hable donde se hable y se escriba donde se escriba.

Esa unidad se apoya en instrumentos claros y eficaces. La cooperación entre las veintidós Academias de la Lengua Española que existen en todo el mundo, entre las que se encuentra la Academia Norteamericana que tan eficiente labor realiza en los Estados Unidos, resulta ejemplar y contribuye decisivamente a una normalización del idioma que tanto puede aportar a promover el papel que al español corresponde ocupar en las redes de comunicación global.

In Spain, for example, the Royal Academy has taken important initiatives to step into the digital world and provide service world wide through its agile and properly updated web facility. Moreover, a new Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Usage is about to be published, produced jointly by the Academies and the Instituto Cervantes.

However, how can we really know what is happening to Spanish on the internet? The truth is we depend on observation methods developed by English speaking countries. It is through them that we have come to know more about the actual presence of Spanish on the web. Therefore, it would be very convenient for Spanish speaking countries to create their own coordinated centers that could monitor the use of Spanish on the net with adequate linguistic tools and technologies.

In the mean time we are glad to learn that over here, at New Mexico State University's Computing Research Laboratory, work of the highest interest is under way to do research on what is known as the computational aspects of Spanish.

Also, this very morning we have had the pleasure to see for ourselves that the practical systems developed by the Chair are already being applied to these linguistic objectives. A great scientific contribution to consolidate the Spanish language within the new technologies.

I believe that you have heard enough about the reasons why this Chair presents us with great opportunities and about the Spanish language as a great contributor to global culture and communication. However, I cannot finish without expressing my utmost gratitude for the work and development of the Prince of Asturias Endowed Chair. Now can I do so without a special word of gratitude for your kindness towards Iberdrola and its Chairman, Iñigo Oriol, in awarding him the University Medal for his crucial role in bringing us together. He has a longstanding record of excellence both in business and in social contributions to the academia and science. Congratulation Iñigo, we are so glad for such a well deserved recognition.

Once again, Princess Letizia and I would like to express our deepest thanks for your warm welcome on our first visit together to this University. We leave hopeful and optimistic about the Chair's future. Honestly, we feel touched by your friendship and hospitality, making us feel, as it were, in our own university.

Thank you very much.

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