Meghan Markle gave a powerful graduation speech about racism and recent protests

She might be one of the world’s most famous expatriates, but Meghan Markle is still concerned about her native country. As protests against police violence against black Americans and systemic racism continue across the United States, the American member of Britain’s royal family has lent her voice to the pleas for change.

This week, she delivered a message to the 2020 graduates of her alma mater, the all-girls Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, and it was a speech those young women will likely never forget.

“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,” Markle said in the opening moments of her address, which was filmed and has been published on Twitter.

“What is happening in our country … has been absolutely devastating.”

Ben Stansall/Pool via AP

Like many graduation ceremonies this summer, Immaculate Heart’s was done virtually, which Markle remarked upon in her speech.

“I know that this is not the graduation that you envisioned and this is not the celebration that you imagined,” she said. “Now you get to be part of rebuilding … Because when the foundation is broken, so are we. You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion.”

The Duchess of Sussex didn’t speak much about the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the changes to the graduation ceremony, but instead spoke from her heart about racism and the high-profile deaths of several black Americans at the hands of police officers.

“George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered and Tamir Rice’s life mattered,” she said as she got visibly choked up. “And so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don’t.”

Markle has been a target of racism many times in her own life and it’s a topic she’s talked about openly, both before and since marrying Britain’s Prince Harry. In 2012, when she was still working as an actor, she talked about painful memories of racism from her childhood, specifically epithets being used against her mother, Doria Ragland.

Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP

She relayed other hard memories to the Immaculate Heart graduates in her speech to them, which was reportedly given with no notes. She talked about her recollections of the 1992 Los Angeles riots as a girl, describing in vivid detail the frightening scenes she saw, including a tree near her house that had been burned, before apologizing to the teens for them having to endure the same experiences.

“I’m so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present,” Markle said. “I’m sorry that, in a way, we have not gotten the world to the place that you deserve it to be.”

AP images | Richard Vogel

She capped off the speech by praising the class of 2020 for living with empathy and already knowing “that black lives matter.”

“So I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world,” she said. “You are equipped, you are ready, we need you and you are prepared … Congratulations, ladies, and thank you in advance.”

You can see Markle’s entire speech in the video below, posted to Twitter by royal family reporter Omid Scobie.