Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, spoke to graduating teens at her former high school: ‘George Floyd’s life mattered’

In a speech given to the graduating class at Immaculate Heart High School, which is her former high school, Meghan Markle mentions the murders of George Floyd, and the many other Black people who have died in police custody. Looking to connect with the students, the Dutchess shared that when she was eleven or twelve, during her time, it was the LA Riots. Not before signing off from her five-minute speech, she recommended that her fellow alumni should lead with love, compassion, and to use their voice. I’ve included the full speech and video for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Immaculate Heart High School graduating class of 2020.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation. And as we’ve all seen over the last week, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of LA has been absolutely devastating. And I wasn’t sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing, and I was realIy 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 Clarke, his life mattered.

And I was thinking about this moment when I was a sophomore in high school. I was 15. And as you know, sophomore year is the year we do volunteer work, which is a prerequisite for graduating. And I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Ms Pollia, said to me before I was leaving for a day above volunteering, “Always remember to put other’s needs above your own fears.” 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. I was 11 or 12 years old when I was just about to start Immaculate Heart Middle School in the fall, and it was the LA Riots, which was also triggered by a senseless act of racism. And 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, 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.

And I can’t imagine that at 17 or 18 years old, which is how old you are now, that you would 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’m sorry that in a way we have not gotten the world to the place that you deserve it to be.

The other thing though that I do remember about that time was how people came together. And 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. We are seeing communities come together and to uplift. And you are going to be part of this movement.

I know that this is not the graduation that you envisioned. And this is not the celebration that you imagined. But I also know that there is a way for us to reframe this for you, and to 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. Now you get to be part of rebuilding, and I know sometimes people say, ‘How many times do we need to rebuild?’ but 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.

You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice. You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you’ve ever been able to. Because most of you are 18, or you’re going to turn 18, so you’re going to vote. You are going to have empathy for those who don’t see the world through the same lens that you do because with as diverse and vibrant and open-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that Black lives matter. So I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world. You are equipped. You are ready. We need you, and you are prepared.

I am so proud to call each of you a fellow alumni and I am so eager to see what you are going to do. Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way. I am exceptionally proud of you and I am wishing you a huge congratulations on today, the start of all the impact you’re going to make in the world as the leaders that we all so deeply crave. Congratulations ladies, and thank you in advance.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is the North American Press Agent and US Business Manager for Oxlade; Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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