Meghan Markle took a moment to give the commencement speech to Immaculate Heart High School’s graduating class of 2020.
While the Duchess of Sussex has been preparing her speech for weeks, she shared with the students that she couldn’t make a speech without addressing George Floyd’s death. George was killed when a Minnesota police officer plunged his knee into Floyd’s neck, causing him to stop breathing.
In a video, Markle shared her message with the girls of Immaculate Heart High School.
“As we’ve all seen over the last week, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating,” she began her speech. “I wasn’t sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing, And I was really nervous that I wouldn’t, or that it would get picked apart. And I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. Because George Floyd’s life mattered, and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we do not know. Stephon Clark—His life mattered.”
Meghan went on to share a moment in her life when she was 15 and she received advice from her teacher Ms. Polia. “‘Always remember to put others’ needs above your own fears,'” she shared. “And that has stuck with me through my entire life, and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before. So the first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
While recalling her time at Immaculate Heart Middle School, Meghan recounted her memories of the 1992 L.A. riots, where three white policemen were acquitted in the brutal beating of African-American Rodney King, setting off riots and the destruction of L.A.
“I remember the curfew. And I remember rushing back home and, on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out of buildings carrying bags and looting,” Markle said. “And I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. And I remember pulling up to the house and seeing the tree that had always been there completely charred. And those memories don’t go away. I can’t imagine that at seventeen or eighteen years old, which is how old you are now, that you would have to have to have a different version of that same type of experience. That’s something you should have an understanding of but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality. So, I am sorry that, in a way, that we have not gotten the world to the place that you deserve it to be.”
She continued talking about how she did remember, in that time that people came together. “We are seeing that right now. We are seeing that from the sheriff in Michigan or the police chief in Virginia. We are seeing people stand in solidarity,” she said. ” We are seeing communities come together and to uplift. And you are going to be part of this movement.”
While this was not the graduation anyone had anticipated or these young people, Meghan believes that there is a way to reframe it for our youth.
“This is not the celebration that you imagined but I also know that there’s a way for us to reframe this for you and not see this as the end of something but instead to see this as the beginning of you harnessing all of the work, all of the values, all of the skills that you have embodied over the last four years and now you channel that.”
“Now all of that work gets activated,” she added. “Now you get to be part of rebuilding. And I know sometimes people say, ‘How many times do we need to rebuild?’ Well, you know what? We are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we.”
Markle urged the children to lead with “love, lead with compassion” and use their voice in the voting booth. Adding they should have empathy for others.
Check out Meghan’s full speech to the girls of Immaculate Heart High School in the video below.