'No one can define you'

James Vaughn

Judge Glenda Hatchett was a six-year-old first grade student in Atlanta, Ga., when her teacher gave the students books to read out loud. She was excited to prove her reading skills, but when her turn came to read, her page in the book was missing.

After class she asked her teacher for a new book, and the teacher said colored girls were not given new books.

“I ran right home and told my daddy to go to the school and fix this mess. I said, ‘Daddy, my teacher told me that little colored girls don’t get new books,’” Hatchett said.


Her father told her the teacher was correct, but he wanted her to go into her bedroom, take out her crayons, sit at her coloring table and write her own book, Hatchett said.

She did not understand and from that moment on, Hatchett hated school, but she was determined, and eventually, she understood the message her father provided her with.

“No one can define you. You define yourself,” Hatchett told the crowd of about 400 people at the eighth annual Martin Luther King memorial luncheon Monday in Carter Hall.

Hatchett graduated from the Emory University Law School and became the senior attorney for Delta Airlines before becoming Chief Presiding Judge of the Fulton County, Ga., Juvenile Court and eventually the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Judge Hatchett, which ran for nine seasons.

 An advocate for young people, Hatchett complimented Designed by Grace gospel choir who performed before she spoke, as well as dancers from the Children’s Center for Dance Education and the Glenwood Leadership Academy’s Amadeus Percussions drumline.

“We have to celebrate when young people do great things,” Hatchett said.

If she could be born again, she would want to come back to earth as a black woman, Hatchett said.

Francis Ortiz, senior finance major, said she really liked how Hatchett said she would come back as a black woman because it let the audience know that she felt pride for her race.

“I like how the message is always the same, but each year, it’s delivered differently,” said Ortiz, who has attended the event for four years now.

Junior Occupational Therapy major Kelci Garcia attended the event in previous years, but said she was much more inspired by this year’s lecture.

“I didn’t know who Judge Hatchett was,” Garcia said. “I would have never guessed she was a celebrity because she is very personal and down to earth.”

President Linda Bennett said Hatchett’s speech will be remembered at USI for a long time.

“She is just someone that sees you. She doesn’t see through you or around you, she sees you. She listens to you and she hears you, and I think that is the power behind her message,” Bennett said.

Hatchett held a question and answer session with students in Forum I and said a question she is asked often is why she left Corporate America to become a judge, considering she had never planned on being one.

“I struggled a lot with the decision,” Hatchett said. “The only reason that I took the podium was because it was a juvenile court. I thought that if I could get my hands on a boy or a girl who was 13, then I wouldn’t have to see them when they were 23 or 43. It turned out to be the decision that changed my life.”