Students at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles heard words of wisdom and encouragement from alum Meghan Markle, as she gave a virtual commencement speech focused on racism and the protests against police brutality that have swept the nation. “I wasn’t sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing,” she told students in her first public remarks on the protests, according to Elle. “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.” The duchess of Sussex and former Suits actor remembered a teacher once telling her, “Always remember to put others’ needs before your own fears.” “That has stuck with me through my entire life,” she said, “and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.”
Markle also related graduating in the current moment to growing up in Los Angeles during the 1992 protests after the police beating of Rodney King. “Those memories don’t go away,” she said after describing the scene throughout the city, when she was about to start at Immaculate Heart Middle School. “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 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 a place that you deserve it to be.” She went on to say that she also remembered her community coming together in Los Angeles, the same way the country is now. “And you are going to be part of this movement,” she told students.
Markle concluded her speech by calling the students to action. “I know that this is not the graduation that you envisioned, and this is not the celebration that you imagined,” she said. “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 the values, all the skills that you have embodied over the last four years, and now you channel that. Now all of that work gets activated.”
“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,” she continued. “I am exceptionally proud of you, and I am wishing you a huge congratulations on today, the start of all the impact you are going to make in the world as the leaders we so deeply crave.”