Meghan Markle delivers speech to her high school: 'George Floyd's life mattered'

The Duchess of Sussex also shared her remembrances of the 1992 Los Angeles riots caused by racial injustice in a speech to her high school alma mater.
/ Source: TODAY

The Duchess of Sussex mourned George Floyd's death as she weighed in on the "absolutely devastating" events of the past week in a heartfelt speech to the graduating class of her high school alma mater.

The former Meghan Markle also backed Black Lives Matter, shared her remembrance of the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and stressed the importance of voting and activism in a 5-minute video speech to the Class of 2020 at the all-girls Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.

"I wasn't sure what I could say to you,'' she said 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 do not know."

The former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes before his death has been charged with second-degree murder and three former police officers were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting murder for their role in Floyd's death.

"The first thing that I want to say to you is I'm sorry," the duchess said. "I'm so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present."

The duchess has often spoken about growing up biracial as the daughter of a white father and a black mother, and about her activism that began at a young age. She is now back living in Los Angeles with husband Prince Harry and their son, Archie, after the couple stepped back from their duties as senior members of the British royal family.

She was in middle school at Immaculate Heart when the 1992 riots occurred after a group of four Los Angeles Police Department officers who were filmed viciously beating motorist Rodney King were acquitted by a trial jury.

She could remember rushing home after school and seeing smoke and ash in the sky, looting on the streets, a van full of armed men, and a charred tree in front of her family's home.

"Those memories don't go away, and I can't imagine 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,'' she said. "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 that in a way we have not gotten the world to a place that you deserve it to be."

However, Meghan has been uplifted by scenes of kindness amid the protests across the country.

"The other thing though that I do remember about that time (in 1992) was how people came together, and we are seeing that right now,'' she said. "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."

She remembered some advice given to her by a teacher during her sophomore year of high school before she went out to do volunteer work.

"Always remember to put other's needs above your own fears," she said. "And that has stuck with me through my entire life, and I have thought about it more in the past week than ever before."

The Class of 2020 is moving forward in a country where more than 100,000 people have died from COVID-19, protests continue in hundreds cities over Floyd's death, and the economy is in its sharpest downturn in decades. Thousands of high school graduations have also been canceled or moved to a virtual setting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I know that this 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 the work, all of the values, all of the skills that you have embodied over the last four years, and now you channel that," Meghan said. "Now all of that work gets activated."

She urged the graduating seniors to vote as she looks toward the next generation to help heal the country after such a fractured time.

"Now you get to be part of rebuilding,'' she said. "And I know sometimes people say, 'How many times do we need to rebuild?' But you know what, we are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it's rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we.

"You are going to have empathy for those who don't see the world through the same lens as you do. Because as diverse and vibrant and open-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter."

The duchess then ended with some words of encouragement.

"I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world,'' she said. "You are equipped, you are ready. We need you, and you are prepared."

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