17 de Marzo de 2018
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La Educación
Número: (117) I
Año: 1994



Presentation Speech of the Interamerica Award by Lauro Ribas Zimmer to His Excellency Ambassador João Clemente Baena Soares,  Secretary General, of the Organization of American States

It is a great honour and privilege for me to stand before you today and address this illustrious assembly of educators, knowing that I have before me delegations that are truly representative of the universities of the Americas. My task is all the more gratifying in that this plenary session has brought together the very essence of the Americas in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity among peoples. It is towards the coming of this “Homo Americanus,” to whom our distinguished president and founder, Dr. Gilles Boulet, constantly makes reference, and of whom President James Monroe spoke as far back as 1823 that we must focus our thoughts and actions, so that he may lay claim to the rights which confer on him the status of citizen. We well know that many of these rights, including the fundamental right to education, are still, today, paralyzed in rhetoric. It is our role as university educators to fight each and every day so that these inequalities are substantially diminished and the inalienable right to education illuminates the lives of men and women everywhere. To translate words into action, it is vitally important that scientific and academic cooperation among the peoples of America be reinforced.

Rector Luis Garita will have the pleasant task of introducing Gilles Boulet, but I would nevertheless like to express my appreciation to him and thank him for the organization he has left to our care.

Your Excellency Ambassador Baena Soares, in honouring you with the Interamerica Prize today, we know we have made an excellent choice. You are one of the most representative figures in the Brazilian diplomatic corps and your work at the forefront of the Organization of American States has made a decisive contribution to bringing more democracy, justice, and equality to Latin America.

We all know how much more will be required of us to continue along this difficult road, but the involvement of individuals like yourself fills us with hope. The merit of those who devote themselves to great humanitarian causes will always be the same, at the top of their achievements or in the struggle below, in glory or adversity. The only thing that can change is the degree of recognition from those who award merit or withhold it. However, when merit has been truly earned as yours has, it withstands those who belittle it and achieves posterity, which is the fairest judge of history.

Your Excellency, you have already earned your place in history by virtue of your past and ongoing accomplishments.

At this time, I could emphasize many different aspects of your long public career, as a brilliant diplomat, as Secretary General of Brazil’s Department of Exterior Affairs, or as the holder of any number of other offices.

However, allow me to mention two aspects of your work at the OAS which have had a direct impact on the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education.

The first was your steadfast support for the creation of the Consortium-Distance Education Network (CREAD). You demonstrated your sensitivity to the problems posed by education on our continent and the need to use state-of-the-art technology to find solutions to the problems that traditional methods have unfortunately inadequately resolved.

Education, my dear friends, is not simply the art of preparing men and women to be productive members of society. Education is quite simply the soul of society, the chief heritage that one generation passes on to the next.

Your faith in education, Your Excellency, leads me to the second aspect of your work, one that has become a true obsession for you.

I am referring to the promotion of democracy on the American continent, something for which you have often put your life at risk, for various reasons, to confirm your faith.

Your work is all the more important in that we know that higher levels of education lead to greater freedom for the people and for governments that are democratic.

Education is the handmaiden of democracy.

Mr. Secretary General, please accept the distinction we are awarding to you today in the full knowledge that we will leave here inspired by your example.

“An Educator” said Guimaraes Rosa in Grande Sertão Veredas, “is not only he who teaches, but also he who knows how to learn.”

We have all learned from your example, Your Excellency.