Meghan Markle spoke out about George Floyd’s death as she delivered a surprise commencement speech for the students graduating at her former high school in Los Angeles.
Markle, who moved back to L.A. with Prince Harry and son Archie in March, spoke passionately against racism in the clip shared with Immaculate Heart High School at their virtual graduation ceremony Wednesday.
“What is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating.
“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 do not know.”
Markle also told the students how, when she was volunteering in sophomore year at age 15, one of her former teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to her, “Always remember to put other’s needs above your own fears,” and that message has stuck with her.
Markle said, “I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.
“I am so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
She also recalled a time when she was 11 or 12 years old and she witnessed the L.A. riots, “which was also triggered by a senseless act of racism.”
“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,” Markle went on.
“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.
“I am sorry that in a way we have not gotten to the place where you deserve it to be.”
Despite all the negatives, Markle added that this is a time when you “see communities come together,” with her telling the teenagers, “You’re 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 soon — 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.”
She concluded, “I know you know that Black lives matter. I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world. You are ready, we need you and you are prepared. I’m so proud to call each of you a fellow alumni. I am cheering you on, all along the way. I am exceptionally proud of you.”
Markle’s spokesperson — royal correspondent Omid Scobie — then commented on the duchess’ speech, saying she “felt compelled to directly address what’s happening” in the U.S. right now.
The Duchess, says a spokesperson, "felt compelled to directly address what’s happening in this country right now around the killing of George Floyd––as well as what’s been happening over many, many years and many, many generations to countless other black Americans."
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) June 4, 2020
"This is something incredibly personal to Meghan, especially given everything she has experienced. And as a couple it is, of course, very important. They are both feeling it, just like the rest of us."https://t.co/9YZCoVEtQz
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) June 4, 2020
Markle’s speech came after new charges were announced against all four police officers present when George Floyd died last Monday.
The charge against Derek Chauvin was elevated to second-degree murder, while the other three officers, previously uncharged, now face counts of aiding and abetting murder.