“The way you’re going, you will go to jail or you'll end up in this body bag. One of two things. What do you want to do?”
Those were the poignant, pointed words uttered in March by a Georgia judge to a group of troubled teens. Her speech has since gone viral.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Verda Colvin had been speaking to the group of youngsters as part of “Consider the Consequences,” a program organized by the local sheriff’s office aimed at reaching young people who’ve had a history of discipline problems or crime.
Colvin later said that she had no idea that she was being filmed, and had been speaking from the heart to the kids gathered.
“You are special, you are uniquely made, and nobody else can do what you’re supposed to do in this world. And if you don’t do it, we won’t have it,” Colvin said to the group, her voice rising with emotion. “I continue to believe that one reason our society is so messed up is because some people who were born to do certain things just dropped the ball. For every person who didn’t do what they needed to do … we’re missing something as a society.”
In the nine-minute video of Colvin's speech, law enforcement officers can be seen passing tissues to some of the young people there.
“The fact that you’re shedding tears means you want to be better and you want to do better,” said the judge, addressing a few of the teens. “Do it. The only person stopping you is you.”
In her speech, which touched on issues like race and the horrors of the prison system, Colvin opened up about her own challenges as a single parent, and the difficulties she faced as an adolescent.
She told the teens to consider her their “surrogate mom,” and urged them to not be just “another statistic.”
The video of Colvin’s speech has been viewed more than 240,000 times to date; and people from all across the country -- and beyond -- have lauded the judge for her “tough love.”
“From small town of Benwood, West Virginia, your words of truth and inspiration echo," wrote Marie Mccamic on Facebook this week. "As a grandmother helping raise 5 grandchildren, 4 boys and one girl, none have been in trouble with the law but I had the eldest grandson watch your video with me and it brought us to tears."
“From across the pond I salute you [ma'am]," wrote David Xavier Phelps. "What a speaker, what an inspiration.”
Colvin said she's been blown away by the response the video has received.
"For some reason there was a decision to tape it and I have to think it was predestined because I didn't plan it," she told WMAZ-TV. "I wanted to speak to their hearts and that's what I did. I am shocked that it has gone that far ... [but] it renews what I've always thought -- at the end of the day, everybody really cares about everybody else."