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Imposição das insígnias de Membro Honorário da Ordem do Infante D. Henrique no estandarte do Instituto dos Pupilos do Exército
Imposição das insígnias de Membro Honorário da Ordem do Infante D. Henrique no estandarte do Instituto dos Pupilos do Exército
Lisboa, 25 de março de 2011 see more: Imposição das insígnias de Membro Honorário da Ordem do Infante D. Henrique no estandarte do Instituto dos Pupilos do Exército


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Speech addressed by the President of the Republic at the Military Ceremonies of the Commemorations of the National Day of Portugal, Camões and the Communities
Santarém, 10 June 2009

Speaker of the National Parliament,
Prime Minister and other Officers of Sovereign Bodies,
Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The date which we are celebrating today, in this historic city of Santarém, invites us to revisit a past whose heritage ennobles us, and to reflect upon the structural pillars of national identity and the values which moulded the soul and the feeling of being Portuguese.

A dream of maritime expansion, in which we admirably combined the love for our Country with the fascination of the sea, the geographical site with a universalist vocation, and European culture creating a common heritage of greatly relevant values for understanding amongst nations.

A collective objective which nowadays still determines the priorities of our external relations, in Europe, in the Americas and in Africa.

On this occasion, and in this place, it is imperative that we recognize the valuable contribution of the Military Institution towards the construction of Portugal, from its inception until the present time.

Portugal is the result of the accomplishments of all Portuguese. We have the duty to honour their legacy and to be aware how to plan for the future.

In situations of great difficulty, in which the normal train of life was endangered, the military forces always knew how to interpret the deepest feelings and the wishes of the people, successfully guaranteeing the independence and the defence of Portugal.

We built a cohesive country, with borders which are well consolidated and almost the world’s oldest, enjoying friendly relations with other peoples and cultures, respected by the international community as a defender of human rights and of the Rule of Law, and actively involved in worldwide peace and security.

Portugal was also built in Santarém. The Courts frequently met here and, up to the 15th century, the city was involved in several actions in defence of nationality, one of the last to yield to the foreign invasion after the 1580 crisis, and one of the first to acclaim King D. João IV.

Our past memory leads us to the great navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral, buried in this city and who was immortalized after he discovered Brazil.

Sá da Bandeira and Passos Manuel are equally two examples of notable soldiers and liberal statesmen strongly linked to Santarém.

Further on, we recall the Military Cavalry School and its contribution to the establishment and consolidation of democracy in Portugal. It was from here that the military column, commanded by the young captain Salgueiro Maia, to whom I have just paid tribute and who, in April 1974, marched into Lisbon in the name of the ideals of freedom and democracy.


I have wanted, since the inception of my term of office, to associate the Armed Forces with the ceremonies celebrating the National Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities. It is on this occasion that I especially address them and endeavour to provide particular visibility and public testimony of their capabilities, as well as to the excellence of their performance in accomplishing the missions in the service of Portugal and the Portuguese.

A word of recognition is due to the former combatants, some of them present here, Portuguese who gave of their best on behalf of Portugal. No fatherland with self respect may forget the citizens who, on its behalf, were ready for any and everything.

As Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, I have kept in touch with particular regard with matters concerning National Defence, encouraging the restructuring process and the development of the work and of the joint and combined capabilities of our Armed Forces.

In terms of legislation, two important laws have recently been approved in Parliament with respect to the reorganization of the higher echelons of National Defence and of the Armed Forces – The Law of National Defence and the Organic Law on the Bases of the Organization of the Armed Forces.

It is expected that the implementation of the new legislation will result in an improved liaison and complementarity between the Branches, and the creation of more agile and flexible command structures, thus avoiding duplication and seeking effectiveness, rationality and economy of means.


The notion of a new world order without war and in which development and human rights could become the bases of a new paradigm of international relations still continues a distant reality.

In order to promote security and safeguard the development of the peoples, individual States establish collective systems of security and defence for which each country makes available its forces, in the perspective of jointly reducing their weaknesses, thus contributing towards the defence of a common security border, often far from their own territories.

It is within this framework that Portugal supports and takes part in operations led by the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. We must, in order to safeguard our own interests, continue to honour our commitments with these organizations and to guarantee adequate conditions for our Armed Forces to shoulder, simultaneously with the remainder, the accomplishment of international missions.

In the past year, our forces took part in operations in the Lebanon, in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Chad, in the Mediterranean and in Somali waters. They equally developed technical-military actions, especially in Portuguese speaking African countries and in East Timor.

In all these missions, the performance of Portuguese soldiers has repeatedly deserved much praise from our allies, as well as from the welcoming countries and peoples. This is a motive of pride for us all.

I must also express, on behalf of all Portuguese, public recognition to the Armed Forces for their missions of direct support of the people, saving lives and chattels. It is a national imperative and, in addition, makes good use of the capabilities and the resources available to the Armed Forces.


In all the transformation processes of the Armed Forces, more than the technological upgrade of material resources, the quality of human resources is prominent as the most valuable asset of the Military Institution. Priority must thus be given to the improvement in their training.

A reform of Higher Military Education is in process with the objective to reorganize the courses in line with the guidance of the Bologna Declaration.

Military learning must include a solid ethical and behavioural training of young soldiers, an impressive and positively differentiating stamp of the great institutions.

Physical capability and training are indispensable conditions for the exercise of the military profession.

The proportion of candidates to admittance in military schools which is eliminated in the physical trials reaches, in some cases, 40 per cent.

It is perchance a characteristic of modern societies, but it is considerably alarming. The improvement in the physical conditions of our youth is certainly a main requirement, not just in the perspective of the Armed Forces, but also for reasons of public health and well being of the people.

Soldiers are Portuguese who swore to defend the Fatherland, even at the risk of their own lives, and who accept, for that purpose, limits to the exercise of their rights as citizens.

The high standards of discipline and cohesion that the Country must demand from the Armed Forces compel special care in the safeguard of the military condition of the men and women who are an integral part of them, as well as an increased concern as to the fairness in the definition of the conditions applicable to their professional status.

On the other hand, and regarding the objectives which the Armed Forces are required to attain, it is necessary to ensure the availability of adequate means for the existence of a coherent military system, capable of operating efficiently within the obligatory budget limitations.


I am well aware that there is a lot yet to be accomplished. I realize the effort with which you have all contributed, in the most diversified postings and in many varied duties.

The Portuguese trust and mirror themselves in their Armed Forces as a factor of assertion of identity and guarantor of national independence. As a privileged tool for the prestige of the State’s external actions. As an institution proud of its history and of the legacy of previous generations.

As your Supreme Commander, I well know that the motto you follow is only one and the noblest of them all: Serve Portugal.

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