In the coming weeks, the future direction of our country -- or, at any rate, the background conditions for the future direction of our country -- will be set.
How often in one lifetime does that happen?
It did of course happen under bloody and ghastly circumstances twice in the last century, in 1914-18 and again in 1939-45. Many of those who survived the first of these onslaughts lived to see the second. And some of those survivors will still have been alive to see the third momentous re-setting of the nation's future under the much happier circumstances of the 1970s when we entered what was then called the Common Market.
So there are people whose lives encompass as many as three great moments for the country.
But, for roughly half the present population of Britain, the next few weeks will be the first (and very possibly the only) such time in a lifetime.
This is a sobering thought.
And, above all, this is a time for sobriety. Whatever views and feelings are held -- inevitably differing and in many cases strongly felt -- what we need as a nation, now more than ever, is cool heads and calm thought. The decision we are all about to take is one that will affect not just ourselves, our families and our fellow-citizens but also, very probably, generations to come. So we need to be sure that we are guided by the clearest possible perception of the risks that lie on either side of the choice we are called upon to make.
This is not a time for brave gestures or hyperbole. It is, rather, a time for careful analysis of the pros and cons, the likely outcomes of different paths. We need to weigh differing dangers in the balance, attending not just to how they feel today but also to how they will feel the day after the result of the referendum is announced, and for the days, weeks, months, years and decades beyond that.
Whatever else, this is a great moment for our democracy: a time when the people will make a decision about what is best for the people. That decision will be respected and immediately implemented.
The government has fulfilled the commitment that many people thought it would not fulfil -- to give the people of this country the direct power to decide the future of their country.
I have often been asked, over recent months, how I myself will vote. Not to be coy, the answer is that, on balance, I believe we will be better off remaining within the EU on the basis that the Prime Minister has negotiated.
I believe this will permit us to enjoy the benefits of the single market without losing our currency, our freedom to set our own taxes, our freedom of action in defence of our country, our ability to police our own borders or our ability to run our own public services.
But the important point now is that this is no longer a decision for the politicians. It is a decision for you.