I am so glad to have had the opportunity to present the certificates at this, the first ceremony to mark the conferring of British citizenship.
It is, I hope, an important moment for those of you who have just become British citizens, and it is entirely appropriate that we are all gathered here to congratulate you and to welcome you to your Country and into your local community.
Being British is something of a blessing and a privilege for us all. Indeed one famous 19th Century figure once said that to be British meant that “you had won first prize in the lottery of life!”
We have a great national talent for self-deprecation; however, while there will always be things which can be done better and areas for improvement, there are many ways in which this Country is, as Shakespeare wrote, that “precious stone set in the silver sea”, with its abiding characteristics of tolerance and good humour.
I also like to think that British people are marked out by their willingness to do things for others. Although there is, quite properly, much attention paid now-a-days to our rights as human-beings and as citizens, we also understand the obligations on us to contribute to national life, as well as enjoying its benefits, and to support and foster our neighbours and communities.
I very much hope that this ceremony has added something to the significance of acquiring British citizenship and that it has reinforced your belief, if indeed any reinforcement is required, that you belong here and are very welcome.
I also hope that being a British citizen becomes for each one of you a great source of pride and comfort for the rest of your life, and my thoughts and prayers go with all of you for the future.