Judge Glenda Hatchett was ready to “keep it real” as she faced an audience of college students.
“This isn’t going to be one of those ‘Climb every mountain, ford every stream’ kind of speeches,” she said at the beginning of her address. “It’s going to be a very candid conversation about, really, what it is going to take to be competitive in this global world, this global market. How is that we can be positioned to be successful?”
Hatchett was speaking at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus Wednesday for Women’s History Month. The speech was also broadcast to the university’s Gainesville, Cumming and Oconee campuses.
The Atlanta native is likely best known as the star of “Judge Hatchett,” a reality court show that now airs in syndication.
She’s also authored two books, including “Dare to Take Charge: How to Live Your Life on Purpose.”
In a speech tinged with both humor and personal reflection, Hatchett shared her own struggles with internal motivation combined with outside expectations based on gender and race.
She told how the educational materials in her elementary school came from the trash of a nearby school for white children. In first grade, she asked her teacher for a new book; the teacher told her “colored children don’t get new books.”
Hatchett remembered running home to tell her father, hopeful he would be able to replace her book, which had pages ripped from it.
“This is a story, a life lesson I want to leave with you today,” she said. “He said, ‘Glenda, she’s right. So I want you to go into your room and get your crayons, and I want you to sit down and I want you to write your own story.’
“Now, I didn’t get it at 6,” she said. “But I got it now. Because in his wisdom, he knew he couldn’t fix a society where things may not be fair, but he could fix me to be the best that I could be and to write my own story.”
Hatchett went on to become the first African-American chief presiding judge of Fulton County Juvenile Court in 1990. She was also employed by Delta Airlines, litigating cases in federal courts around the country as a senior attorney, and supervising global crisis management and media relations. For her work with Delta, Ebony Magazine named Hatchett as one of the “100 Best and Brightest Women in Corporate America.”
There are three rules for being successful, she said: Be authentic, give people reasons to believe in you and be a leader.
And a fourth, bonus rule?
“Don’t get tied up with a turkey,” she said as the audience erupted into laughter. “I mean, you might date some turkeys. I get that. But you don’t want to partner with somebody who is not committed to your empowerment. I don’t care how fine he is, I don’t care how fine she is. If he or she is not committed to your dreams and your path, you don’t need to be with them.”
Hatchett gave the audience members some homework for the weekend, telling them to think about what they really want to do, and then ask themselves why they haven’t done it yet.
“Your dreams may change, and that’s OK. But you’ve got to give voice to those dreams,” she said. “People who will succeed and people who will really rise and be global leaders and successful and motivated, and be able to motivate others, will have to be very clear about who they are.”
Multicultural Student Affairs Director Robert Robinson said the speech was a great chance for students to reflect on their own goals.
“We want to take this opportunity in Women’s History Month to challenge you all to realize the accomplishments of wonderful people,” he said. “That accomplishment reflects the accomplishment we all can have.”