Duchess Meghan may not have social media, but she became the first member of the royal family to speak out about the Black Lives Matter protests—and in a poignant, meaningful way. The Duchess of Sussex gave a virtual commencement speech at her Los Angeles high school, Immaculate Heart High School, this week.
She released the full speech to outlets, where she spoke candidly about the L.A. protests, her own experience witnessing the Los Angeles riots in the 1992 after Rodney King’s death, and her high expectations for the graduating class to join the fight for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.
“I wasn’t sure what I could say to you,” she began in her 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, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don’t know. Stephon Clark. His life mattered.”
“You get to be part of rebuilding,” she continued later in her speech. “And I know sometimes people say how many times do we need to rebuild? Well, you know, we are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we.”
Watch Meghan’s remarks above and read her full remarks below:
Immaculate Heart High School graduating class of 2020, 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. 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.
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 we do volunteer work, which is a prerequisite for graduating. And I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to me before I was leaving for a day of volunteering, “Always remember to put other’s needs above your own fears.” And that has stuck with me throughout my entire life, and I have 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 about to start Immaculate Heart High School in the fall, and it was the L.A. Riots, which was also triggered by 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 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.
So I am sorry in a way that 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 to reframe this for you and not see this as the end of something but instead to see this as the beginning of you harnessing all of the work, all of the values, all of the skills 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 are 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 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 opened minded as I know the teachings are at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that Black lives matters. So I’m already excited for what you’re going to do in the world.
You are equipped; you are ready; and 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’m 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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