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Speech delivered by The President of the Portuguese Republic
at the Ceremony held in the Historical and Geographical Institute of Brazil

Honourable President of the Historical and Geographical Institute of Brazil
Honourable Members of the General Meeting
Honourable Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Honourable Ambassadors
Honourable Consul General
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The General Meeting of the Historical and Geographical Institute of Brazil decided to distinguish me with the title of Honorary President of this prestigious and more than centenary institution.

I was very touched by this gesture and am extremely grateful.

I interpret this title, before anything else, as a testimony to the proverbial and true fraternity which links our two countries, doing justice to a History which was common to us during several centuries and which continues, until now, to generate mutual respect and friendship between two independent nations.

It is unnecessary to bring to mind the numerous testimonies of this friendship which exist in Portuguese history and culture. Vitorino Nemésio, a great Portuguese poet with a passion for Brazil, made his feelings perfectly known when he wrote his Ode to Rio de Janeiro:

«Rio alone but together with Brazil,
Rio so Brazilian and so near to Portugal,
Rio so far out to sea and so near the people,
In the nature of the people of Rio and the people of Portugal».

I would however wish to highlight how grateful I personally am for the distinction which the Institute has awarded me.

Truly, both as a politician and as an academic, I have always attributed a very special significance and relevance to institutions such as this, which are the result of the vision and of the will of citizens freely drawn together for a cause which has a great social reach.

In the formation of the Historical and Geographical Institute of Brazil, entrepreneurs and intellectuals knew how to join together around a project which has until now stamped the cultural panorama of this country, especially that of Social Sciences.

When the Brazilian State was taking its very first steps, early in the 19th century, its founders already had the clear notion that development, to become sustainable, requires cultural and scientific stability, without which social cohesion and the assertion of human essential values would be placed at risk.

It was from this combination of wills, between businessmen and politicians, scientists and humanists that the foundations were reached for the notable collection of documents concerning the History and Geography of Brazil that the Institute keeps in its custody.

It was from this founders’ nucleus that an important network of national and foreign researchers was developed, amongst whom were included some of my most illustrious countrymen, such as Alexandre Herculano, Serpa Pinto and João Lúcio de Azevedo.

I thus have the best reasons to feel honoured by this honorary title, awarded by an institution with such enhanced distinctions, which accompanies the Brazilian intellectual life practically since its inception as an independent State.

Mister President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The principles on which the creation of the Historical and Geographical Institute was based continue to be recognized by all as probably more topical now than they were in 1838.

Nowadays, as well as in that already distant date, we believe in the role that may be performed by the free initiative of the people and by their creativity, in the most diversified fields of economy and learning.

We equally believe that science, such as wealth, has a great social responsibility. As stated in the motion approved by the businessmen that founded this Institute 170 years ago, «merit and talents must open the doors to employment» and contribute «to a greater degree of public welfare».

We believe, in short, that on a par with the value of freedom, indispensable to each person’s accomplishment and to the assertion of his fundamental rights, the value of solidarity exists: solidarity amongst persons, solidarity amongst social groups, and solidarity amongst peoples.

The historical moment in which we live nowadays is, as we well know, deeply stamped by an unprecedented globalization, of information and knowledge as well as of markets, from which new until now unsuspected opportunities may arise for many individuals, and even, I would dare say, for entire populations.

Millions of people have been abandoning, in the latter years, the misery without redemption to which they seemed condemned, such as their predecessors had been during centuries.

But our era is also stamped by the challenge represented by the many other millions not yet favoured by luck, nor contemplated by any type of opportunity, and whom we cannot afford to ignore.

Due to elementary ethical imperatives, such as strategic reasons, for instance, governments and other responsible organizations are nowadays obliged to find remedies to actively integrate the pressures of the migratory flows occasioned by globalization; to contradict the strident inequalities in the distribution of wealth and guarantee security and stability; to fight the increase in the attempts on the environment which, if not halted, could compromise the lives of the coming generations and place the planet under dire risk.

It would be a mistake, even an irresponsible attitude as a generator of pressures inside each State, and internationally as well, to believe that economic growth can be achieved, without limitations, by ignoring such issues.

Mister President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our two countries met, in the past, notable instances in the assertion of such principles, such as Father António Vieira, whose fourth centenary we are celebrating this year and who distinguished himself, precisely here, in Brazilian territories, by his courageous acts in the defence of justice and of the rights of the disinherited.

It was also here, in Rio de Janeiro and in other Brazilian cities that, during the 20th century, several Portuguese intellectuals and artists lived in exile, such as Jaime Cortesão, Agostinho da Silva or Adolfo Casais Monteiro, whose works are stamped by their attachment to freedom and by their special love for their second fatherland.

Successive generations of Portuguese have lived here, who sought for improved living and distinguished themselves in their work and initiative, to which are now added the leaders of a significant flow of investments that made Portugal one of the largest investors in Brazil.

Portugal and Brazil have, nowadays, institutions and legislation that consecrate the values of democracy and human rights, as well as the belief in the virtues of a market economy inseparable from social cohesion and solidarity for the less favoured.

In addition, both are integrated in two regional areas where peace and international cooperation are true political priorities, valued both at State level and at the level of public opinion.

Last but not least, Portugal and Brazil have a common language, shared with other six independent States. They thus belong in an immense area of communication and culture, with multiple potentialities which we have possibly not yet known how to properly exploit.

The scientific interchange and the multiple contacts which already exist between universities, institutions and enterprises in the cultural sector, stimulated by belonging to a community partaking of the same language, could certainly diversify and develop into other sectors.

The Portuguese speaking world can and must be, not just a nostalgic area to invoke the past, but above all, a dynamic area for intellectual interchange and for the joint production of knowledge, an area that can be projected and have its own voice in the so called global village.

All these factors, linking us together at the same time as strengthening the traditional friendly relations between our two countries, are a privileged basis for dialogue and for possible cooperation in the international stage.

The geographical situation of Brazil, its regional integration and its capabilities in the most diversified fields make it a Country which is viewed by the international community with great expectancy in the emergence of the 21st century.

In its turn, the geographical and economic positioning of Portugal, a Member State of the European Union as well as a modern and politically stable nation, with a multi-secular experience, are promising and secure guarantees, both for investors and for those who care to visit us.

A deepening of our bilateral relations can only bring advantages to both countries and to the areas in which each of us are integrated.

I am certain that we will know how to find innovating procedures for cooperation which will contribute towards the economic, social and cultural progress which we aspire for our peoples.

I am certain that Portugal and Brazil have a relevant contribution to provide for the building of a more peaceful and equitable world.

The History which brought us together, such as the Geography that placed us on opposite sides of an Ocean which, instead of a separating barrier, was a road that linked us, demand from us our best efforts to face the challenges of our time.

Thank you very much.


© 2008 Presidency of the Portuguese Republic