• U.S.
  • Race

Meghan Markle Pays Tribute to George Floyd and Urges Class of 2020 to ‘Use Your Voice’ in Graduation Speech

3 minute read

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, gave a virtual address to her former high school in L.A. Wednesday, imploring the class of 2020 at Immaculate Heart High School to “lead with love, lead with compassion” and “use your voice” amid the ongoing protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the U.S.

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 said. She drew a comparison between her experiences of the 1992 L.A. riots, after the police beating of Rodney King, which Markle called “a senseless act of racism,” and now, in the wake of Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer.

“I remember rushing back home, and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky,” Markle recalled. “I remember seeing men in the back of a van holding guns and rifles. I remember pulling up to the house and seeing the tree that had always been there completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.”

Markle also acknowledged the type of world the class of 2020 are graduating in to and the challenges they face. “I can’t imagine that at 17 or 18 years old, which is how old you are, that you would have to have a different version of that same type of experience. That’s something that you should have an understanding of, but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality.”

Markle remembered a teacher at Immaculate Heart telling her to “always remember to put others’ needs above your own fears,” adding that the phrase has “stuck with me through my entire life and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.”

“I know you know that Black Lives Matter. I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world,” Markle said. “Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way, I am exceptionally proud of you, and I am wishing you a huge congratulations on today, the start of all the impact you’re going to make in the world as the leaders we all so deeply crave.”

Markle has previously spoken about her experiences of racism and navigating life as a biracial woman. In 2016, Prince Harry released a statement condemning the British media’s treatment of Markle, saying that she had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,” including “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.” In January this year, the Sussexes announced that they were stepping back as senior royals, and the couple relocated with their young son Archie relocated to L.A. in March.

Correction, June 4

The original version of this story misstated what happened to Rodney King in 1992. He was beaten by police, not killed by police.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com