The Duchess of Sussex gave a powerful commencement address via video to the graduating students from her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, and she directly addressed Floyd’s death, the ensuing protests, and Black Lives Matter. A spokesperson for Markle told royals reporter Omid Scobie she “felt compelled to directly address what’s happening in this country right now around the killing of George Floyd––as well as what’s been happening over many, many years and many, many generations to countless other black Americans.”
“This is something incredibly personal to Meghan, especially given everything she has experienced,” a source told Scobie. “And as a couple it is, of course, very important. They are both feeling it, just like the rest of us.”
Markle did not shy away from the topics of race and justice in her almost six-minute speech to the young women from Immaculate Heart.
“For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation and as we all have seen over the past few weeks, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating,” Markle said. “And 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 don’t know. Stephon Clark. His life mattered,” she continued. “The first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
Markle also spoke about her memories of the riots in Los Angeles following the beating of Rodney King by police officers. “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,” she said. “I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. 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.”
But the duchess said she sees hope in the future leaders from her high school and specifically referenced that many of them will soon be voting for the first time. “You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice,” Markle said. “You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have 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, vibrant, and open-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter. You are equipped, you are ready, we need you, and you’re prepared.”
Scobie also reports that Markle and Prince Harry are continuing to do work behind the scenes from their new home base in Los Angeles. “Harry and Meghan have been having private conversations with community leaders and people at every level, as well as friends and family, about this issue since the start of recent events,” a source told Harper’s Bazaar. “By speaking to as many people and organizations as possible, it has been a way for them to feel connected to everything that’s going on and learn more about the issues surrounding it.
Watch Meghan Markle’s full commencement address, above.
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