If there is anyone that can motivate an audience, its Judge Glenda Hatchett. The famous court judge known for her hit TV show, Judge Hatchett, visited Clayton State University on Monday, Nov 6, to dare students to work hard and achieve their goals.
Long before she graced our television screens, Judge Hatchett served as Chief Presiding Judge of Fulton County, becoming Georgia’s first African-American chief judge over a state court, and had worked as a senior attorney and public relations manager for Delta Air Lines.
But Hatchett told students the journey to becoming an attorney was fraught with many challenges as she pursued her education, even leading her to consider quitting law school at one point.
"I hated law school," she exclaimed. "I'm going to share a story with you about the day I almost quit law school."
Hatchett told students that while attending law school full time at Emory University, she also worked full time as Assistant Dean for women in the university's undergraduate department.
Balancing both her job and her studies quickly became overwhelming for Hatchett. She contemplated dropping out of law school and decided to visit her Aunt Francis, who was like a grandmother to her, for advice.
She recalls collapsing on Aunt Francis's sofa and crying to her about the stressful times she was having.
"I went on and on and on about how much I hated law school," Hatchett said. "Finally, she stopped me and this is what she said to me that changed my life, she said, 'Baby, if it was easy, everybody and their momma could do it. But it's not easy, and you have been uniquely blessed and situated to do what you set out to do."
Hatchett had always been inspired by Aunt Francis who was a Black school teacher for 20 years in the Jim Crow South. She took Aunt Francis's words to heart and quickly changed her attitude.
"I got up off that sofa with the determination that if I ever faced anything in my life that I really wanted, I had better figure out how to get it done."
Hatchett encouraged students to adopt the same attitude when faced with challenges in their lives and to let nothing hinder them from accomplishing what they set out to do.
Additionally, Hatchett encouraged students to discover where their passion and purpose intersect.
Upon graduating, Hatchett worked as a senior attorney for Delta Air Lines and became the airline's highest-ranking woman of color.
She eventually left Delta Airlines to take on the title of Chief Presiding Judge of the Fulton County Juvenile Court.
Initially, Hatchett was hesitant to accept the position, but she quickly discovered that although being a lawyer was her passion, working as a juvenile court judge was her purpose.
She shared with students the story of her first case as a juvenile court judge. A ten-year-old boy stepped into her courtroom, scared and close to tears because his mother had left him.
Hatchett immediately knelt before the boy, embraced him and ensured him that everything was going to be alright.
"It was on my knees in that courtroom where my purpose and my passion intersected," she stated. "I don't know what that is for you, but I challenge you to figure it out."
Lastly, Hatchett advised students to take their fate into their own hands and to not let any obstacles decide what they can and cannot do.
When Hatchett attended school as a young girl, black students were not afforded the same educational opportunities as white students and were given poor quality school materials.
She remembers asking her first-grade school teacher for a new book because hers was torn. Her teacher told her that black students do not get new books.
Hatchett went home heartbroken and shared what had happened with her father.
"My daddy told me, 'Glenda, she's right. So, you go in your room and get your own crayons and paper and you write your own story," she stated. "So, that's my challenge to you all. You're going to come across hard times in your life where pages are going to be marred because of injustice. But that's when you have to dig deep and write your own story. Do what you set out to do."