Meghan Markle is speaking out about the challenges of advocacy. The 38-year-old Duchess of Sussex gave the keynote address during Girl Up's virtual leadership summit on Tuesday and got candid about how everyone must work together to face the challenges plaguing our country and world.
"In the halls and corridors and places of power -- from lawmakers to world leaders to executives -- all of those people, they depend more on you than you will ever depend on them. They know this," she said. "They know that all of you at a younger age than any modern comparison are setting the tone for an equitable humanity. Not figuratively. Literally."
Humanity, Markle said, "desperately needs" people willing to push our world forward "in a more inclusive and more just and more empathetic direction."
Markle encouraged those watching to "not only frame the debate, but to be in charge of the debate on racial justice, on gender, on climate change, on mental health and well-being, on civil engagement, on public service, on so much more."
"You are standing up and demanding to be heard, yes, but you are also demanding to own the conversation," she said. "Another thing about those lawmakers and leaders and executives I mentioned earlier. Now many of them... they don't listen until they have to because the status quo is easy to excuse and it's hard to break, but it will pull tightest right before snapping."
She went on to reiterate the need for young leaders to "keep challenging, keep pushing, [keep making] them a little uncomfortable."
It's only in that discomfort that we actually create the conditions to reimagine our standards, our policies and our leaders; to move toward real representation and meaningful influence over the structures of decision-making and power," she said.
Markle continued her inspiring speech by addressing the myth that one group of people will lose something if we all become more equal.
"Despite what some may say, this reimagining, it's not a zero-sum game [where] one side wins, one side loses. Not at all," she said. "It is mutually beneficial and better for everyone."
"Because of that, that path to get us there will take all of us. It will take girls and women. It will take men and boys," Markle continued. "It will take those that are Black and those that are white collectively tackling the inequities and structural problems that we know exist."
Despite the challenges the world is facing, Markle said that she believes we are "on the precipice of transformation."
"We can accelerate the pace of change. And you know what? We don't have to be satisfied with the current speed of progress," she said. "... Use your voices -- both on and off-line -- to build each other up, support each other."
"There will always be negative voices. And sometimes those voices can appear to be out-sized and sometimes they can appear to be painfully loud, but you can use your own voice to drown out that noise. Because that's what it is. It is just noise," Markle continued. "But your voices are those of truth and hope. And your voices can and should be much louder."
Markle emphasized how new and different voices are "urgently needed," before stating that "believing in true equality is not enough."
"It's going to take more than belief. We have to work for it every day. Even when it's hard, even when it makes others feel uneasy, we have to speak out for ourselves and we have to speak out for others who struggle to be heard," she said. "... I know all of you will use your voices courageously. And I also know that all of you will use your voices compassionately. Compassion doesn't mean we shouldn't feel outraged when you see blatant injustice all around us. Of course we should. But I challenge you [to] broaden that feeling."
The duchess continued by encouraging girls to "believe in what makes you unique and don't be afraid to do what you know is right even when it's not popular, even when it's never been done before, even if it scares people, and even if it scares you a little."
That fear, Markle said, can "paralyze us" and "stop us from being brave and bold," but she challenged the girls not to "underestimate your ability to push through the fear."
"You have, rooted in your convictions, the ability to craft a world that you know is just and kind," she said. "You're gut will tell you what's right and wrong; what's fair and what's unfair. The hardest part -- it was the hardest part for me -- is to chase your convictions with action."
That action can be a challenging step to take because "it's easy to get overwhelmed," but Markle wants the viewers to look at the bigger picture.
"The growth and the change that you're pursuing might not feel like anything day-to-day, but when you look back, I promise, you will see that it all adds up," she said. "We make better communities and a better world for ourselves step by step and the pace of those steps is getting quicker... It's at looking at the big picture that you can see how far we've progressed."
Markle concluded her speech with a sweet shout-out to her husband, Prince Harry, and their 1-year-old son, Archie.
"I will be cheering you on, so will my husband, so will Archie, as you all continue marching, advocating, and leading the way forward," she said.
Prior to her speech, a source close to Markle shared why the duchess is so passionate about advocating for women.
"The duchess strongly believes that the next generation of girls and young women have incredible power and have already shown themselves to be leaders beyond their years: on racial justice, climate change, mental health, civic engagement, public service, and much more," the source said. "They are a generation that is challenging norms, enacting real-world change, and leading global movements."
"The Duchess of Sussex's message is clear: girls must be empowered to set the agenda, own the conversation on the issues they care about, and be driving forces for change in communities across the world," the source added. "[The next generation] is not only 'poised to change the world,' she believes they have already begun.'"
The source also noted that "what the duchess is saying about reimagining the status quo reflects what so many young women across the world are already doing."