Over the course of his life, Pau Casals struggled constantly for peace, justice and freedom. In recognition of his stance, in 1971 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U-Thant, awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal. The speech that Pau Casals gave to express his gratitude for this distinction, and afterwards his performance of "El cant dels ocells" (The Song of the Birds), constituted one of the most impressive testimonies to his human dimension.
WORDS OF PAU CASALS AT THE UNITED NATIONS - 24 OCTOBER 1971
"This is the greatest honour of my life. Peace has always been my greatest concern. I learnt to love it when I was but a child. When I was a boy, my mother –an exceptional, marvellous woman– would talk to me about peace, because at that time there were many wars.
But let me say one thing. I am a Catalan. Today (Catalonia is) a province [sic] of Spain. But what has Catalonia been? Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I will tell you why. Catalonia had the first parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the beginning of the United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the 11th century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace. In the11th century! Peace in the world and against, against, against war, the inhumanity of war. This was Catalonia. I am so so happy, so moved to be here, with you.
I have not played the cello in public for many years, but I feel that the time has come to play again. I am going to play a melody from Catalan folklore: “El cant dels ocells” (The Song of the Birds). Birds sing when they are in the sky, they sing: "Peace, Peace, Peace", and it is a melody that Bach, Beethoven and all the great composers would have admired and loved. What’s more, it was born in the soul of my people, Catalonia."
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