Judge Glenda Hatchett: A promise to keep

This is the third in a series of seminar notes that I’m blogging: good talks I attended while at NAESP in San Antonio.

Before I begin this one, here are all four:

  1. Eric Cupp: touching hearts, changing minds
  2. Christine Todd Whitman: on leadership
  3. Jon Gordon: the energy addict
  4. Glenda Hatchett: a promise to keep

Glenda Hatchett was the highest ranking woman at Delta Airlines, successful and well-paid, when she was asked to become a judge. Not wanting to, but feeling led by God to take it, she did, and has since become one of the most famous judges in the US (it helps that she’s on TV!)

She’s a fiery speaker: reminds me of a souther black Baptist minster preaching. Her speech was built around 2 main stories that she told: one of a 8-year old kid in her courtroom the first week of her new job, and one of herself and her relationship with her father.

My notes from her talk:

A promise to keep
Her first week, an 8-year old boy came in to her courtroom, looked around, and just starting shaking with fear. He had been left by his mother, a crack addict, at a homeless shelter. She said she’d come back for him, but she never did. He was there so the state could find him a place to live.

Glenda zipped off her judge’s robe, went down to him over the protests of her bailiff (this wasn’t the way judges were supposed to act) and gave that boy a long hug. Her promise was to help that boy, and over the next year, she did … getting his mother in rehab (several times) and finally, getting him back in home with a drug-free mother.

“Yo-yo prayers”
She didn’t want to be a judge, but she wanted to pray about her decisions. So she said a 10-second prayer about how she didn’t want to do it and tried to leave it at that. Of course, she couldn’t and the rest is history …

On failure
“There is no such thing as failure if you’re trying to get it right. You’re only warming up for success.”

One of her favorite quotes
Walt Disney had a quote for people who really impressed him: “you’re able to dream beyond your lifetime.” Think about that for a minute – that IS impressive. Do you dream beyond your lifetime? Do I? Real visionaries do. People who truly care about others do.

Write your own story
When she was little, her school in the south was segregated. And the black kids got the hand-me-down books from the white schools. Lousy, broken, ripped, mildewed – you name it.

She cried to her father: can I have a new book? Her father replied: write your own story.

She didn’t like it at the time – cried and went to her room – but that’s what she’s done with her life, and that’s what she’s motivating others to do as well: write their own stories.