20th August 2018

Speech by President János Áder at the award ceremony of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary

The Earth orbits the Sun. Every material consists of atoms. Characteristics of living organisms are passed on by genes. Legendary Try was an actual city.

Esteemed Award Recipient,
Dear Guests,

Who would think of questioning these statements today?

We rarely think today, how much time had to elapse, before the epochal discoveries of some clever, talented and courageous people (Copernicus, Mendel, Boltzmann and Schliemann) became – widely accepted - facts recorded in encyclopaedias. Before a theory was verified as being the truth.

More than 170 years ago, a Hungarian doctor concluded during his daily work that washing his hand with calcium hypochlorite will save lives.

Ignác Semmelweis, who was born more than two-hundred years ago, took serious professional conflicts on himself by stating that the deadly puerperal fever was caused by an infection that clinical doctors involved in dissections passed on to mothers in labour.

Stubborn disbelief, professional jealousy, ingrained habits and sheer comfort stood in the way of Semmelweis. His own colleagues, Europe’s leading professionals did not believe him.

He still went ahead and introduced mandatory preventive hand wash at the institution he headed in Hungary. He was driven by the idea that he was not fighting for his truth, but for a single common truth.

He did not desire fame or glory. It was his conscience that made him say: “the truth has to be made known to all those concerned.”

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary is awarded every year to outstanding Hungarians, who, with their talent, work, skills and diligence have walked their own individual paths to discover the truth. Something that is going to be a glory for all of us. Something that will impact the lives of many.
Something that will be worth and necessary to be made known to “all those concerned”.

In the case of this year’s award winner humanity is “concerned” in knowing the truth in many different ways: since the subject of the research is humanity itself.

This year’s award winner is demographer, population scientist Pál Demény.

We, the people and our communities are his “field of research”.

Why are there more children born in one place than in others? What are the reasons and the consequences of a rapid demographic decline or perhaps the opposite: a population increasing beyond its means? How does an unfavourable population pyramid impact the society: if one age group disproportionally outnumbers another?

Cause and effect are equally important for Pál Demény. Throughout his life he sought answers to how the most personal human decisions – like founding a family and raising children – have impacted the larger community: an ethnic group, a nation, a continent, a historic era.


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