Meghan Markle delivered a powerful speech urging women to fight voter suppression during the "When All Women Vote" event staged by Michelle Obama's When We All Vote organisation.
The live-streamed conversation was organised to "honour the 19th Amendment (women's right to vote), celebrate the women of colour who have fought to make the promise of the 19th Amendment a reality for all women, and highlight the need to expand voting rights for marginalized communities," according to the event's website.
During her speech, Meghan addressed the obstacles to voting still faced by many women of colour, saying, "Even today we are watching so many women in different communities who are marginalised, still struggling to see that right [to vote] come to fruition. And that is—it’s just simply not OK."
"We look at the attempts of voter suppression and what that's doing—it’s all the more reason we need each of you to be out there supporting each other, to understand that this fight is worth fighting and we all have to be out there mobilising to have our voices heard," she continued.
"We vote to honour those who came before us and to protect those who will come after us––because that's what community is all about."August 20, 2020
The speech was met with a mixed reaction online with many praising the Duchess for speaking out in an impartial way, while others called for her to lose her title for allegedly violating royal protocol.
"You can’t be a royal and meddle in politics," journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted.
"It’s one or the other. The whole point of royals is that they’re above the political fray. It’s not cancel culture, it’s a breach of their employment contract as HRHs."
Markle’s participation is noteworthy because members of the British royal family are reportedly expected to not publicly discuss politics. However, the rules around this have been muddied since the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry's stepping back from their royal duties in January 2020.
Although Markle remained nonpartisan in her speech, she said there is a lot of work to be done and a lot “at stake” and asked people to mobilise and vote to create the “change that we all need and deserve.”
The virtual voter registration event When We All Vote – first created by Obama – also has political ties to prominent Democrats.
In a statement, We All Vote said it is fighting for “fair and safe elections” by supporting the expansion of access to vote-by-mail, early in-person voting and online voter registration in response to the coronavirus pandemic; a topic which has been hotly debated.
Read Markle's full speech – as first published by Elle – can be read below.
"Well, hi everybody! This is exciting! I’m really thrilled that you asked me to be a part of this. I think this is such an exceptional time, [I'm] so happy to be here for my friend Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote and to kick off the When All Women Vote Couch Party. I think—look, if we’re looking at what’s happening here and the work that you’re doing here at the United State of Women, it is fair to say we are all very grateful for that work because we need it now really more than ever.
"So as I was thinking about this a little bit, I thought, when I think about voting and why this is so exceptionally important for all of us, I would frame it as we vote to honour all those who came before us and to protect those who will come after us because that’s what community is all about, and that’s specifically what this election’s all about. We’re only 75 days away from Election Day, and that is so very close and yet there’s so much work to be done in that amount of time because we all know what’s at stake this year. I know it. I think all of you certainly know it and if you’re here on this fun event with us, then you’re just as mobilized and energized to see the change that we all need and deserve. So I’m inspired to see all the work that you’re doing in your communities as well as for your communities.
"As you just mentioned earlier, this week we are recognizing the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which of course gave women the right to vote but not all women and specifically not women of colour and as we look at things today, though it had taken decades longer for women of colour to get the right to vote, even today we are watching so many women in different communities who are marginalized still struggling to see that right come to fruition, and that is—it’s just simply not okay. And we look at the attempts of voter suppression and what that’s doing, it’s all the more reason we need each of you to be out there supporting each other, to understand that this fight is worth fighting, and we all have to be out there mobilizing to have our voices heard.
"So you know it’s interesting we are obviously faced with a lot of problems in our world right now, both in the physical world and in the digital world. But we can and must do everything we can to ensure all women have their voices heard. Because at this juncture, if we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem. If you aren’t going out there and voting, then you’re complicit. If you’re complacent, you’re complicit.
"And I think when we are looking at all the different ways we can engage, we can support one another, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the issue is that speaks to your heart: maybe it’s the environment. Maybe it’s the rights of women. Maybe it’s the rights of children or maybe it’s healthcare. Whatever it is, we can make the difference in this election and we will make the difference in this election.
"You know, as I continue to think about the rest of this day and all the amazing work you’re going to be doing texting eligible voters, making sure that they are registered, making sure that they can have the impact that we all need and really want then I think that it’s an exciting day because it is the countdown to the change that we would all like to see for the better for our country and watching all of you do your part in whatever way to just encourage each other to have your voices heard. So I appreciate the work you’re doing.
"I thank you so much. You know, in the fraught moment right now that we find our nation in, exercising your right to vote isn’t simply being part of the solution, it’s being part of a legacy. So thank you for being part of that legacy with us. Take good care of yourselves and of each other, and I can’t wait to see what we can all accomplish together. Thank you!"
Main image by @sussexroyal