Prince Harry called into the ceremony to honor the young people who have done extraordinary things in Princess Diana's name

By Simon Perry
July 01, 2020 11:03 AM

Prince Harry made a surprise video address on Wednesday to the virtual award ceremony honoring young people in the name of his late mother, Princess Diana.

Harry's recording for the Diana Award ceremony was especially poignant as it fell on what would have been Princess Diana’s 59th birthday, July 1.

"I am so incredibly proud to be part of these awards, as they honor the legacy of my mother and bring out the very best in people like you," the prince said. "You are all doing such incredible work and at a time of great uncertainty, you have found the power and inspiration inside of you to make a positive mark on the world. And I love that The Diana Award is able to help you do it."

Diana And Harry Majorca
Princess Diana and Prince Harry
| Credit: Tim Graham/Getty

"I know that my mother has been an inspiration to many of you, and I can assure you she would have been fighting your corner. Like many of you she didn’t take the easy route or the popular one or the comfortable one. But she stood for something and she stood up for people who needed it," he continued. "Right now, we're seeing situations around the world where division, isolation and anger are dominating as pain and trauma come to the surface. But I see the greatest hope in people like you, and I'm confident about the world's future and its ability to heal because it is in your hands."

Prince Harry
Credit: The Diana Award

Prince Harry also addressed the Black Lives Matter movement, saying, "My wife [Meghan Markle] said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven't done enough to right the wrongs of the past. I too am sorry — sorry that we haven't got the world to a place you deserve it to be."

"Institutional racism has no place in our societies, yet it is still endemic," he continued. "Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame  to create a better world for all of you."

Harry said he is "committed to being part of the solution and to being part of the change that you are all leading. Now is the time and we know that you can do it."

Harry, 35, called from Los Angeles, where he lives with wife Meghan Markle, 38, and their 1-year-old son, Archie. Other participants included actors Emma Thompson and Will Poulter and singers Liam Payne and James McVey.

Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the award is given out by the charity of the same name and has the support of both her sons, Prince Harry and Prince William.

Tessy Ojo, CEO of the Diana Award, praised the new Diana Award recipients, telling the online ceremony, "Because you chose to rise up, change happened. Similar to what Princess Diana did so many years ago when she, like you, showed up for communities that needed her the most. Communities affected by landmines, HIV, ill health, poverty and many more. In doing what you did, you truly are continuing her legacy by extending compassion to others. We salute you for your courage, compassion and service to others."

Along with praising the young people who have carried out inspiring work, Harry introduced the story of a young man who has worked to help conquer inequities for those of Caribbean heritage at British universities.

James Frater, 24, is currently a medical student at King's College in London, but his school days were marred by being routinely dismissed and prematurely labeled, so he had to endure hundreds of detentions and multiple exclusions from school.

"It took a while for me to realize this is actually happening," he tells PEOPLE of interacting with Harry at the ceremony. "If you had told me 10 years ago when I was 14, 'James, in 10 years' time, Prince Harry would know your story and your work,' I would say, 'That's impossible.' I still can’t believe it."

Four teachers mentored and helped him, he says. “Those key teachers at key moments in my life were the reason I felt I can complete school." He received an Amos Bursary Scholar that transformed his life and is now an inspirational speaker.

Frater believes Prince Harry is in a perfect position to show leadership, especially in these days of radical, fast-moving change. "We can all agree that racial injustice exists and has existed for a long time. It's time we acknowledge that — but what are the decisions we are doing to make to make our society more equitable?" he says. "Those are the things that Prince Harry can really help with. He's in a decision-making and change-making role in which he can make decisions happen and make things more equitable."

Harry — who helped push the mentoring message at last year's Diana Award ceremony — "has a good track record of being quite firm and being very clear about what he believes in," Frater, who grew up in London, adds. "The most recent demonstration of that is the fact he said because of his family he was going to step back from royal duties and move away to North America. He exhibits a lot of the characteristics of Princess Diana, in that fearlessness and boldness in standing up for what you believes in. He really believes in the education of young people."

Princess Diana and Prince Harry

Frater, who hopes to become a family doctor or GP when he graduates in a few years, hopes to inspire more young people too. "I was never given the chance to really explain, or was overlooked in things and that really impacted my confidence. If we look at how black Caribbean boys are treated in the education systems you see a clear pattern they are often over represented in exclusion statistics and expulsion statistics and they underperform. Clearly there’s a systemic problem here."

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More than 180 young people from 35 countries were honored by the charity.

The honorees from the U.S. were: Eshani Arumalla, 14, from San Jose, California; Margaret Bond, 24, from from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; Robbie Bond, 12, from Honolulu, Hawaii; Ryan Brady, 17, from Shaker Heights, Ohio; Sir Darius Brown, 13, from Newark, New Jersey; Diana Chao, 21, from Los Angeles, California; Lauren Galley, 25, from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sarah Goody, 15, from San Francisco bay area, California; Claire Grace, 18, from Stillwater, Oklahoma; Ananya Jain, 21, from Atlanta, Georgia; Alexander Knoll, 15, from Post Falls, Idaho; Medha Reddy, from Silver Spring, Maryland; Maya Srinivasan, from Palm Harbor, Florida; Sammie Vance, 11, from Indiana; and Emily Walsh, 18, Sausalito, California.