By CARSON BLACKWELDER, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, delivered a powerful speech to the 2020 graduates of Immaculate Heart High School, her alma mater, urging them to “lead with love,” “lead with compassion” and to “use your voice.”
Her video, shared Wednesday evening for the class of 2020’s virtual graduation, begins by her telling the all-girls school she was “really nervous” to address the “absolutely devastating” times we’re living in until coming to an important realization.
“I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing,” the 38-year-old said.
Meghan continued by stating that “George Floyd’s life mattered” as did — and do — the lives of “so many other people whose names we know and whose names we do not know.”
Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 at the age of 46 when a white police officer pressed on Floyd’s neck with his knee for nearly nine minutes. In the days after Floyd’s death, protests have spawned across the country — and across the globe — calling for change.
She then recalled experiencing the LA riots during her youth, an event she noted was “also triggered by a senseless act of racism” in the beating of Rodney King at the hands of police. While detailing the horrors of this time, Meghan added that “those memories don’t go away.”
“So the first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry,” the former Suits actress said, acknowledging that young people are having “a different version of that same type of experience” now. “I’m so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
“That’s something that you should have an understanding of, but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality,” Meghan, who grew up in LA, added. “So I am sorry that, in a way, we have not gotten the world to the place that you deserve it to be.”
The duchess said there is one positive comparison in looking back at the LA riots and what’s going on today. The bright side, in her eyes, is seeing “how people came together.”
Meghan ended her message by admitting she knows this isn’t the graduation ceremony these students “envisioned” or “imagined.”
“Now you get to be part of rebuilding,” she said, telling the graduates we will “rebuild and rebuild and rebuild … because when the foundation is broken, so are we.”
Meghan signed off with just a few more words of inspiration and encouragement for their bright futures.
“You are equipped, you are ready, we need you and you are prepared,” Meghan concluded. “Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way, I am 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.”
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.