Television judge and author Glenda Hatchett urged students at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law to find their purpose and passion in life during a talk at the school Thursday, Sept. 15.
“Let there be something in your life that you’re passionate about, that you are committed to and believe is your calling,” said Hatchett, a former Atlanta-area juvenile court judge and senior attorney for Delta Air Lines.
Hatchett, now in her 10th season with her two-time Emmy-nominated show, “Judge Hatchett,” is the author of two books, Dare to Take Charge and Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say.
Speaking as the fall semester’s first lecturer in Cumberland’s Cordell Hull Speakers Forum series, Hatchett gave her audience three guidelines on how to pursue their true passion and calling.
First, be honest with yourself about what it is you seek to do.
Second, lead by serving. “You can’t lead unless you’re willing to serve. True leaders never point and tell how to get there, but they lead by example,” she said.
And thirdly, “Know that you didn’t get here on your own. You stand on the shoulders of mighty generations,” she said, adding to be proud of who you are, but remember that you owe a debt.
While everyone might not can be a mentor, she said, everybody can figure out some way to serve, whether it is writing a check to pay a child’s baseball fees or sponsoring a scholarship.
“Find something you can do that will live beyond your lifetime.”
She told how she had prayerfully struggled with her decision to leave a secure position with Delta’s legal department to become chief judge of Fulton County Juvenile Court. Her calling became clear one week into her judgeship when a scared 8-year-old who had been left at a shelter by his crack cocaine-addicted mother appeared at her bench.
Hatchett took a hard stance with the absent mother, ordering her arrest and threatening that the child be put up for adoption if she didn’t deal with her drug addiction. The child remained in foster care for several months, but was eventually able to return home to a healthier mother.
“My purpose and my passion intersected that morning with that child. I believe it’s what I was called to do,” she said of the time she spent as Georgia’s first African-American chief presiding judge of a state court.
She urged the law students to not get discouraged with their career decision, which she did early into her first semester at Emory University School of Law. When working a full time job and being a full time student became too much, she sought comfort and advice from a wizened elderly aunt, who asked Hatchett if she really wanted to be a lawyer.
When Hatchett replied that she did, the aunt, who had seen the worst days of the segregated south, gave the tired, sleep-deprived student some life-changing advice.
“She said, ‘Baby, if it were easy, everybody and their mama would be able to do it. You have been uniquely situated and blessed with the gifts to do what you need to do.’”
“She expected me to see the grace in my life,” recalled Hatchett. “How dare I not go forward? I promised myself then that if there was anything I wanted, that was important to me, I would pour myself into it with purpose and passion.”