Meghan Markle paid tribute to George Floyd during a surprise commencement address to her former high school on Wednesday, June 3.
“For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation, and as we’ve all seen over the last week, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating,” the Duchess of Sussex, 38, told Immaculate Heart High School’s class of 2020 in a video message that played at the end of their two-hour virtual ceremony.
“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,” she continued. “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. Stephon Clark, his life mattered.”
During her speech, Meghan looked back on her time as a student at the private all-girls school in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood as well as the 1992 riots in the area, saying, “Those memories don’t go away.” However, she explained the importance of using what she learned in school to become a leader.
“You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice,” she said. “You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have 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 and vibrant and open-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter. So I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world. You are equipped, you are ready, we need you, and you are prepared. I am so proud to call each of you a fellow alumni.”
After the ceremony concluded, Meghan’s rep told Harper’s Bazaar that the Suits alum “felt compelled to directly address and speak to these young women about 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.”
Floyd died at the age of 46 on May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the unarmed black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, leaving him unable to breathe. Chauvin, 44, has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were charged with aiding and abetting murder.
After Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter demonstrations and protests were held in all 50 states.
For more information, visit Blacklivesmatter.com.