Half a century ago, the amazing courage of Rosa Parks, the visionary leadership of Martin Luther King, and the inspirational actions of the civil rights movement led politicians to write equality into the law and make real the promise of America for all her citizens.
2012 has been an extraordinary year for our country. We cheered our Queen to the rafters with the Jubilee, showed the world what we're made of by staging the most spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games ever and - let's not forget - punched way above our weight in the medals table.
You don't have to be a brilliant historian to know that in Europe, messing with countries' borders, messing with their self-determination, their ability to choose their own futures, this is extremely dangerous, and that's why I think it is important to stand up to Putin.
Today, hundreds of millions dwell in freedom, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, from the Western Approaches to the Aegean. And while we must never take this for granted, the first purpose of the European Union - to secure peace - has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside Nato, who made that happen.