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Hatchett delivers empowering speech in MLK keynote address

JANUARY 20, 2012
By William Mitchell ’13, Contributing Writer

Judge Glenda Hatchett appeared an unimposing figure sitting at the front of Younts Auditorium on Thursday night, but if anyone in the room believed her to be anything but spectacular, they would soon be proven wrong.

Hatchett, a graduate of Emory Law School, has an impressive resume. Over the course of her career she has been a senior attorney for Delta Airlines, chief presiding judge of a state court, a best-selling author and the star of her own show, “Judge Hatchett,” among other achievements.

On Thursday, however, Hatchett came to Furman to deliver the keynote lecture in a series of events highlighting the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Her talk was co-sponsored by the Riley Institute, the Student League for Black Culture and the Furman chapter of the NAACP. Hatchett’s natural charisma and enthusiasm were apparent from the beginning.

“Tonight I want you to know that I’m speaking from my heart, and that this isn’t some scripted speech,” she said.

Hatchett stressed that Martin Luther King’s mission was not restricted to the uplifting of African Americans, but to the uplifting of all humanity. King’s last march had been about the poverty of all Americans.

In addressing the issue of poverty Hatchett stressed a community-based approach, citing the success of pilot programs in after-school centers that allow children to help determine the programming. She argued that by engaging students in the process they become more invested in the program.

Midway through the lecture Hatchett asked everyone under the age of 25 to stand, and soon the room was full of both local children and Furman students on their feet. Hatchett surprised them with an unusual request.

“Close your eyes, and think of your dream. On the count of three I want you to shout that dream.”

Three came, and the room erupted into a mumble.

“Let’s try that again. I know you have it in you.”

This time it was a success, and the room resounded with the raucous dreams of children and students alike. Some began to sit, but Hatchett wasn’t done with them yet. She pointed to a young boy in the back, no older than 11, and asked him what he wanted to be. The boy shouted back enthusiastically, “A football player!”

“Ah, an athlete!” With a little help Hatchett stepped down from the platform and walked into the audience. The questions continued as Hatchett asked everyone standing what they wanted to do with their lives, dividing them into groups based on profession.

“Why did I do this? Because we need to encourage our children to give voice to their dreams, and our responsibility in this beloved community is to see that they get there. Why did I put you in groups? To encourage each other. To support each other.”

Hatchett concluded with a mission for the audience.

“I dare you to run on and live your life purpose, to lead with purpose and to believe in the dreams that are in your soul.”

Last updated February 17, 2016
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