Amid a global pandemic and a national racial justice reckoning, The Duchess of Sussex spoke to the 2020 class at her alma mater.
In a commencement address to the 2020 all-girls class at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, her alma mater, The Duchess spoke openly about the unique experience of young women graduating during a year marked by struggle and reckoning. With COVID-19 forcing the event to be held virtually, and growing civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd, The Duchess acknowledged the ability that these new graduates have to leave an imprint and impact on the world in front of them.
The Duchess started her speech by saying:
“Immaculate Heart High School graduating class of 2020, for the past couple of weeks I have 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.
“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 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 15, 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 the teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to me before I was leaving for 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’ve thought about it more in the last week than ever before.
“So, 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.”
Later, she said:
“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’s 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 the values, all the skills that you have, that you have embodied over the last four years, and now you channel that.”