Though his Invictus Games have gone international and his Royal Foundation helps charities worldwide, Prince Harry didn’t always understand why his role in the monarchy meant he must serve others.
“I think what happened to my mum probably put me a step back, thinking, how could someone who did so much for the world and did so much for everyone else be treated like that by a certain institution?” the 33-year-old shared during a panel at the Obama Foundation‘s inaugural summit in Chicago on Tuesday night. “It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you understand the privileged position that you’re in, you go to spend the rest of your life giving back, and gaining the trust and respect of the general public.”
Calling Princess Diana — who died when Harry was just 12 — “my ideal role model,” the prince explained why he thought she was considered the “People’s Princess.”
“I think she had a lot in common with everybody but also she certainly listened,” he shared. “In a very, very short space of time she was like a vacuum going around, sucking up all the information, all the criticism, all the issues, all the positives and negatives from everybody, then putting her name and her platform toward the bigger issues that had never been talked about.
“In society we suffer from this illusion, or reality, that some problems become so big that nobody wants to get involved. She was the one that changed that. I will always look up to her … everything she did and the way she did it was having an impact, making a difference,” he said.
Speaking with businesswoman Mellody Hobson and young philanthropists Chantelle Stefanovic (of Full Effect, a program of The Royal Foundation) and David Peterson (of The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum), Harry also noted how the charitable work of the royal family is a true commitment.
“Because of the position that we’re in … you’re not in it for four years, eight years — you’re in it for life,” he said. “Therefore everything we can do, we have a bigger, longer platform than politicians.” That means being choosy with the projects he, brother Prince William and sister-in-law Princess Kate support through The Royal Foundation.
“In today’s world, you have to be involved with things that make sense to where your pbadions lie, rather than show up to a charity once a year,” he said. “I don’t think that’s beneficial to anybody.”
Earlier in the day, Prince Harry joined former first lady Michelle Obama at Hyde Park Academy, a high school across from the future site of the Obama Presidential Center on the city’s South Side. Mrs. Obama wanted to bring Prince Harry to Hyde Park Academy to showcase the world leaders who will participate in the Foundation’s programming and events and visit the surrounding community.
His enduring friendship with the Obamas started several years ago when he linked up with the former first lady to raise support for his Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. The former president also joined the prince at September’s Invictus Games in Toronto.