Meghan Markle is free of the constraints that comes with the life of being a royal, and it shows. The Duchess of Sussex gave a surprise commencement speech to her former high school, Immaculate Heart, in Los Angeles, on Wednesday. During the virtual ceremony, Markle apologized to students that they still have to deal with the turmoil going on in our country (and the world), paid tribute to #BlackLivesMatter, and was able to be a lot more candid and personal than she would have been if she were still in the grips of royal culture.
“What is happening in our country 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 I wouldn’t or that it would get picked apart,” said Markle. “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.”
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Markle credited her former high school with helping her find her voice and with teaching her how to become a leader. She used that sentiment as a testament to her confidence in the next generation during her six minute address.
“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.”
Markle’s most personal touch was when she recalled being a middle schooler living through the 1992 L.A. Riots that erupted following the Rodney King verdict. She described what it was like being under curfew, driving around and seeing the chaos of looting and buildings on fire, and how those memories have stuck with her forever. “I’m sorry that we have not gotten the world to the place that you deserve it to be,” she said.
It was a sad but poignant full-circle moment that illustrated her point about how this year’s graduates have not inherited the world that they deserve, but have the tools to work toward change.
She ended on a hopeful note, expressing that she was confident in the class of 2020 being able to vote and use their power for change as they embark on their adult lives.
“You are equipped, you are ready, we need you, and you’re prepared.”