Yesterday, the Duchess of Sussex delivered a moving message to the 2020 graduating class of Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. Immaculate Heart High Schoolwas founded in 1906 by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic religious order of women who trace their origin to Olot, Spain.


The duchess recalled the words of her teacher, Ms. Maria Pollia, who is a theology teacher at the institution. Pollia told the young Rachel Meghan Markle: “Always remember to put others needs above your own fears.” The Duchess of Sussex remarked that her teacher’s words had stuck with her always, and that this missive had especially been on her mind during these past couple of weeks.

The full text of the address given by the Duchess of Sussex is as follows:

Immaculate Heart High School, graduating class of 2020, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation, and as we all have seen over the last week, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of LA has been absolutely devastating. 

And 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. Stephon Clark. His life mattered. 

And I was thinking about this moment when I was a sophomore in high school. I was fifteen, and as you know, sophomore year is the year that we do volunteer work, which is a prerequisite for graduating. And I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to me before I was leaving before a day of volunteering: ‘Always remember to put others needs above your own fears.’ And that has stuck with me through my entire life, and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.

The first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present. I was eleven or twelve years old when I was just about to start Immaculate Heart Middle School in the fall, and it was the LA riots, which were 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, and I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. And 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. 

I can’t imagine that at seventeen or eighteen years-old, which is how old you are now, that you would have to have a different version of that same type of experience. That’s something you should have an understanding of — but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality. So I am sorry that in a way we have not gotten the world to the place that you deserve it to be.

The other thing, though, that I do remember about that time was how people came together. And, we are seeing that right now. We are seeing that from the sheriff in Michigan or the police chief in Virginia. We are seeing people stand in solidarity. We are seeing communities come together and to uplift. You are going to be part of this movement. I know that this is not the graduation that you envisioned, and this is not the celebration that you imagined. But I also know that there is a way for us to reframe this for you and to not see this as the end of something, but, instead, to see this as the beginning of you harnessing all of the work, all of the values, all of the skills, that you have embodied over the last four years, and now you channel that. Now all of that work gets activated. Now you get to be part of rebuilding. And I know that sometimes people how many times do we need to rebuild. Well, you know, we are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuild. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we. 

You are going to lead with love. You are going to lead with compassion. You are going to use your voice. 

You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have ever been able to, because most of you are eighteen, or you are going to turn eighteen, so you are 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 opened-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’re prepared. I am so proud to call each of you a fellow alumni, and I am so eager to see what you are going to do. Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way. I am exceptionally proud of you. I am wishing you a huge congratulations on today: the start of all the impact you are going to make in the world as the leaders which we all so deeply crave. Congratulations, ladies, and thank you in advance.

Meghan Markle married Prince Harry of Wales, the second son of the Prince of Wales, in 2018. Prince Harry was created the Duke of Sussex upon his marriage. In 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed the arrival of their son Archie. The family currently live in Los Angeles. 

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