Meghan Markle Speaks Out About George Floyd's Death in Powerful Graduation Speech

Caroline Hallemann
Photo credit: Duchess of Sussex
Photo credit: Duchess of Sussex

From House Beautiful

Last night, Meghan Markle gave a surprise virtual commencement address for her former high school's graduation.

The Duchess had initially planned to offer her congratulations to the Immaculate Heart High School class of 2020, and to share words of encouragement as well as memories of her own experience at the all-girls school in Los Feliz.

However, a spokesperson told Town & Country: "She felt compelled to directly address and speak to these young women about 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."

"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," Meghan said in the nearly 6 minute speech.

"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."

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

Meghan also reflected on her own memories of the 1992 L.A. riots following the death of Rodney King, which she said were also triggered by a "senseless act of racism."

And she shared the perspective of one of her teachers about volunteering that "stuck with her" to this day.

"I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Miss Pollia, said to me before I was leaving for day volunteering, ‘Always remember to put others’ needs above your own fears,’" Meghan recalled. "And that has stuck with me through my entire life and I’ve thought about it more in the last week than ever before."

At the end of her speech Meghan called for the students to "channel" their education and what the skills they've learned over the past four years.

"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?’ Well you know, we’re going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we," she said.

"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."

Meghan closed the address by thanking these women for their work in advance.

"I’m 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’m so eager to see what you’re going to do," she said.

"Congratulations ladies, and thank you in advance."

In addition to this speech, the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, of which Meghan is vice president, Prince Harry is president, and Queen Elizabeth is patron has also spoken out about Black Lives Matter.

Watch Meghan's speech above, and read a full transcript of her words below:

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 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.

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 that we do volunteer work, which is a prerequisite for graduating. And I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Miss Pollia, said to me before I was leaving for day volunteering, ‘Always remember to put others’ needs above your own fears.’ And that has stuck with me through my entire life and I’ve 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 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 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 that 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 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’s 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 the values, all the skills that you have, 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?’ Well you know, we’re 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 do, 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’m 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’m so eager to see what you’re going to do. Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way. I am exceptionally proud of you and I’m 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.

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