“George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered,” said Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, to the graduating class of Immaculate Heart High School during a virtual commencement speech on Wednesday evening.
Meghan Markle starts the video addressing the class of 2020 as a proud alumna of the all-girls school, located in the Los Feliz enclave of Los Angeles. As a dedicated volunteer for many charities, she was thrilled to be part of the ceremony even as it shifted digitally due to COVID-19. But like many people in this country right now, her heart is heavy with the racism that has reared its ugly head again.
She opens her speech honestly, by sharing she’s been devasted by the racial decisiveness in America.
“What is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of LA… I wasn’t sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing. 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,” said Markle.
Her courage to speak up was uplifted by the memory of her time at Immaculate Heart, where she credits she found her voice. “One of my teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to me, ‘always remember to put other’s 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,” said Markle.
Another memory that has surfaced for Markle was living in Los Angeles in 1992. “I was 11 or 12 years old and it was the LA Riots, which was also triggered by senseless act of racism,” 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 and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings… I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. I remember pulling up the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.”
However, Markle has seen another side to this country’s racial divide. A side that offers hope and she’s assured those seniors on Wednesday evening that they are already equipped to build a bridge. She said, “We’re seeing that right now, from the sheriff in Michigan or the police chief in Virginia. We’re seeing people stand in solidarity, we are seeing communities come together and to uplift. You are going to be part of this movement.”
Markle continued: “With as diverse, vibrant and opened minded as I know the teachings are at Immaculate Heart, I know you know that Black lives matters. You’re 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 turning 18 — so you’re going to vote. You’re going to have empathy for those who don’t see the world through the same lens that you do. You’re ready. We need you and you’re prepared.”
Watch Markle’s full commencement speech, below.