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“George Floyd’s life mattered” — Meghan Markle Delivers an Emotional Speech on Racism

Meghan Markle delivered an emotionally-stirring speech responding to the tragic murder of George Floyd and other “senseless acts of racism” to the graduating class of her former high school Wednesday evening. Although the Duchess of Sussex had long planned to surprise this year’s graduates of Immaculate Heart High in Los Angeles as the keynote speaker, the powerful speech she gave during the students’ virtual commencement ceremony addressed the mass protests erupting not only in the United States but also across the world in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“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,” began Markle. “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 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.”

Remembering an important lesson one of her high school teachers taught her during her sophomore year that has always resonated with her gave her the courage to speak up instead of allowing the fear of saying the wrong thing silence her. “One of my teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to me, ‘Always remember to put others’ needs above your own fears.’ That has stuck with me throughout my entire life, and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.”

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Reliving the memories of the Los Angeles riots she experienced when she was an adolescent girl, Markle apologized to the all-girl graduates for the fact that another “senseless act of racism” is once again the trigger for traumatic memories that “don’t go away.”

“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,” she said. “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… 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. 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.”

However, Markle also shared the power of unity and culture of compassion that grows within communities when tragedy strikes, inspiring the teen leaders to join the “rebuilding” movement because now is the time they can put into action all the skills and lessons they’ve absorbed throughout their four years at high school and make a difference.

“You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice,” she explained. “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. 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’re prepared.”

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