In the last sixty years Britain's place in the world has continued to change as we have faced new threats, increasingly complex challenges and the relentless evolution of science and technology.
Throughout this global transformation, Her Majesty the Queen has been a constant and reassuring presence for Great Britain, both at home and overseas.
We should not underestimate the scale of change that has accompanied the Queen's reign. In Britain alone, she has watched as communities across the land have challenged previously conventional wisdom on racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and more recently, islamophobia. Britain has become a more tolerant and cultured country under her watchful eye.
Around the world she has watched as great figures of history have come and gone, from Winston Churchill, to Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama to Aung Sang Suu Kyi.
This summer, the Queen will welcome the world to these shores once more as we celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and London's hosting of the Olympic Games. It will be another landmark year that will show the world all that is still great about Britain.
As a former member of The Parachute Regiment, the Queen has special significance for me. During her long reign, British forces have been deployed operationally all over the world. Chiefs of the Defence Staff, Secretaries of State and Prime Ministers have come and gone. The Queen has remained ever present. I know how important it is to our soldiers on the ground, to hear her reaffirm her commitment to our service personnel and her commitment to the families who wait at home, counting down the days until their loved ones return, hoping and praying the knock on the door never comes.
I believe in the value of public service. I have dedicated my professional life to the service of our country, first in the Army and now in politics. For me, the Queen is an exemplary role model. She executes her duties with a steadfast belief in public service and duty and she does it all with an unshakeable grace that has characterised her reign.
That is why, the next few days are important. They represent a chance to acknowledge her formidable commitment to her people – all over the world. It is a commitment that is respected by world leaders, politicians and by people who are struck by her extraordinary dedication and commitment.
Her Majesty has worked tirelessly to support all her Prime Ministers and to build strong working relationships with countless foreign Heads of State and leaders of the Commonwealth nations. She is well placed to head a country that has culture, the arts, heritage, design and technology at its core. Around the world, portraits of the Queen have become synonymous with the traditions of the British monarchy.
The Queen has watched as her nation has led the world in the arts and creative industries. Throughout her reign, British filmmakers and actors have dominated the big screen, the Beatles transformed British music forever and England even won the football World Cup.
So as we move through 2012, the eyes of the world will be on Her Majesty to inspire her people again. In July, she will become the third British monarch to officially open the London Olympic Games, following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, Edward VII in 1908 and her father, George VI in 1948. Before that, street parties and festivals will signal her people's respect and admiration for the lady known by billions, simply as ‘The Queen.’ I am supremely confident, that she will, as ever, with a grace and devotion to duty that is admired and respected the world over, once more make our country very proud.