Fellow Gibraltarians: This National Day we are celebrating a very special and proud moment for our nation. This year we are blessed to be celebrating 50 years since we took our destiny into our own hands by voting in a referendum for a future of our choice. Before then, many considered us a pawn in the hands of great powers and their interests. After 1967, this would be no more. In the face of an intimidating, fascist Spain, our strong and passionate people put pen to paper and told the world who we were and where we were going.

There is a word that resonates very strongly when we celebrate this milestone, and that is democracy. In this day and age, there are still those who think that democracy must have caveats and limitations, and question the right of nations to craft their own destiny. To them we say: fear not of democracy. Fear not of referendums, or the free and open expression of identity, for they can be instruments of peace and conviviality. National identities should be able to be expressed without fear of oppression; in fact, the expression of national pride is often a response to those who wish to impose their ideas on others. Only by accepting our differences will we truly be able to share the things we have in common, and enjoy a peaceful and harmonious relationship with our neighbours.

Since our referendum, Gibraltar and its people have gone from strength to strength. Over the last fifty years, our sense of belonging and national pride has grown, while creating a community that people of all denominations can call their home. We have done so by embracing a set of common values which are the foundations of this small nation of big hearts: Unity, respect, tolerance, democracy and an unwavering sense of self. Our people have weathered one political storm after another while coming out stronger and prouder and showing the world each and every time that our spirit and our fight is not for sale.

On this fiftieth year we all know great challenges lie ahead. It is likely that we will have uncertain times, like we have done many times in the past. I for one do not see the future with fear. Let ́s face it, we Gibraltarians know uncertainty very well, and we have a thing for coming out stronger in the end, don ́t we? Whatever the future holds for us, I believe we will emerge stronger, and this confidence is rooted in the faith I have in my people. I know we are at our best during difficult times. These are the moments when we pull together as a family and when we show the world who we are. In the face of difficult times we have proven that we are a people with a voice, with the courage to overcome adversity and the audacity to reinvent ourselves.

We are yet to write many more chapters of this extraordinary story of conviviality, prosperity, and democracy.

I have every faith that the next fifty years will be just as fruitful and productive as the last fifty years have been, and I have no doubt whatsoever that our beloved Gibraltar will continue to show the world what a unique and talented bunch we are!

Whatever you choose to do on National Day, stay safe and have a great one!

With all my deepest affection, Marlene

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