Meghan Markle Has 'Full Circle' Moment at One Young World Summit: 'It's Very Nice to Be Back in the U.K.'

The Duchess of Sussex said it felt "full circle" to open the organization's signature summit with Prince Harry by her side

Meghan Markle is taking center stage.

The Duchess of Sussex, 41, gave the keynote speech at the One Young World Summit in Manchester on Monday. The address marked the first speech she made in England since she and Prince Harry stepped back from their senior royal roles in March 2020.

"It's very nice to be back in the U.K., and it's very nice to be back with all of you at One World," Meghan began. Calling back to her history with the organization, for which she has served as a counselor since 2014, the duchess said she was "probably a lot like each of you" when she first got involved – "young, ambitious, advocating for the things I deeply and profoundly believed in."

"Have any of you today so far had that feeling that pinch-me moment where you just go, 'How am I here?' " she asked the crowd gathered in The Bridgewater Hall. "It's a lot, and at that dinner, there were about 20 to 30 of us counselors, and there I was, the girl from Suits," she said with a laugh, which the audience echoed.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex makes the keynote speech during the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2022
Chris Jackson/Getty

Revealing that she felt "overwhelmed" then to sit beside world leaders, humanitarians and activists that she long admired, the Archetypes host admitted that she even saved her place card from the 2014 summit in Dublin as "proof" that she belonged.

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Reflecting on feelings of self-doubt then and assuring the young people in the crowd they also belonged, Meghan fondly recalled attending One Young World's flagship event in Ottawa in 2016, and London in 2019.

"By that point, it's fair to say my life had changed rather significantly. I was now married, and I was now a mom," she said, as the audience applauded.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex makes the keynote speech during the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2022
Meghan Markle. Chris Jackson/Getty

"My worldview had expanded exponentially seeing the global community through the eyes of my child and I would ask 'What is this world he would come to adopt?' and 'What can we do what can I do to make it better?' " The Bench author added. Meghan and Prince Harry welcomed son Archie, 3, in 2019, and daughter Lilibet, 1, last year.

"I am thrilled that my husband is able to join me here this time, to be able to see and witness firsthand my respect for this incredible organization and all that it provides, as well as accomplishes," Meghan said with a smile. "One Young World has been an integral part of my life for so many years before I met him, so to meet again here on U.K. soil with him by my side, makes it all feel full circle."

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-harry/" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a>, Duke of Sussex during the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2022 at The Bridgewater Hall on September 05, 2022 in Manchester, England. The annual One Young World Summit brings together more than two thousand of the brightest young leaders from every country and sector, working to accelerate social impact both in-person and digitally. Meghan is a counsellor for the organisation, alongside Justin Trudeau, Sir Richard Branson, and Jamie Oliver, among others. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Chris Jackson/Getty

Closing her comments, Meghan said she was humbled to stand before and with the community today.

"We often hear people say 'The time is now,' but I'm going to double down on that, by saying your time is now," she urged. "The important work can't wait for tomorrow."

Since launching in 2009, the One Young World community has grown to a network of over 13,700 ambassadors, and their projects have impacted 35.8 million people worldwide, according to the organization.

One Young World's flagship event unites activists, humanitarians, world leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, politicians and innovators to come together to confront the biggest challenges facing humanity.

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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-harry/" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a>, Duke of Sussex clapping during the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2022
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Chris Jackson/Getty

Reacting to the remarks, Somalian-American model and activist Halima Aden tells PEOPLE that she truly connected with Meghan's message.

"I loved her speech. It was the best kick off and it motivated everybody on stage," Aden, who snapped a selfie with the duchess after the address, says. "As a young Black woman myself I look up to her so much. This is my third year [attending] too."

"She brought the spirit tonight. The excitement for her was so obvious," added Adem. The 24-year-old model moved to the U.S. at age 7 from Kakuma in Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, and broke fashion barriers when she was the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2019.

Human rights activist and One Young World ambassador Jamira Burley also tells PEOPLE that Meghan's remarks resonated.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-harry/" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a>, Duke of Sussex watch a performance during the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2022 at The Bridgewater Hall on September 05, 2022 in Manchester, England. The annual One Young World Summit brings together more than two thousand of the brightest young leaders from every country and sector, working to accelerate social impact both in-person and digitally. Meghan is a counsellor for the organisation, alongside Justin Trudeau, Sir Richard Branson, and Jamie Oliver, among others. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Chris Jackson/Getty

"I was super inspired. It is super exciting to have her here and to be a part of this," the 33-year-old changemaker says.

"The highlight for me was when she talked about her transition from being an actor to continuing this work as a duchess," Burley explains. "I think it shows the trajectory of how the investment from world leaders has to start over a period of time, because we're not going to see the impact overnight. Young people are doing the work, but we have [to have] the support of world leaders who see what young people have the ability to do."

The appearance kicks off a busy week for Meghan and Harry, who traveled to Europe for their first joint working visit in two years.

On Tuesday, the California couple will travel to Germany for the Invictus Games' "One Year to Go" countdown event. Harry and Meghan are then expected to return to the U.K. to attend the WellChild Awards Thursday.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex "are delighted to visit with several charities close to their hearts in early September," a spokesperson for the couple said after announcing the trip in August.

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