Destiny Smith Washington
Education: Juris Doctor, Tulane University School of Law; Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude, Louisiana State University
Company Name: FordHarrison LLP
Company CEO: Allen J. McKenna
Company Headquarters Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Number of Employees: 256
Words you live by: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” –Maya Angelou, Letter to my Daughter
Who is your personal hero? My mother, Darlene Smith
What book are you reading? The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
What was your first job: Production assistant at Jefferson Parish School Board TV Station
Favorite charity: United Way
Interests: Fitness (I was recently a certified fitness instructor), cooking, and crafting on my Velcro-Cutter
Family: Married, with an 8-year-old son and an 11-year-old Boxer
The Importance of “Grit”
People would be surprised to know that I was a first generation college graduate—until I wasn’t—who honorably served in the United States Army and the Louisiana Army National Guard.
My father is an electrician by trade, and my mother is a licensed practical nurse. My parents got married young, and my mom attended college for a few semesters before I came along. My parents fostered a loving and supportive environment and empowered me to be well-rounded—my dad ensured that we actively participated in team sports, and my mom was a champion for literacy and creativity. When I was17, they even signed for me to join the Army. My siblings and I were top priority, as my parents did all they could to ensure that all four of us graduated from college with advanced degrees (a medical degree, a professional degree, and two master’s degrees).
At the age of 55, my mother graduated with her bachelor’s degree. This year, she fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a certified K-12 teacher. Due to my mom’s grit, my title of first generation college student was retroactively taken away, and I couldn’t be more proud.
I didn’t know what “grit” meant until my first Leadership Council on Legal Diversity conference, which I attended as my firm’s 2020 fellow. At that conference, I learned that “grit” means the ability to pursue a long-term goal. But, I view it as bravery. It is absolutely an attribute that I possess. I surely got it from my mother and I hope to pass it to my son.
I experienced that grit when, a few days after I graduated from high school, I attended boot camp. The mental challenges—respecting authority, learning to lead while working as part of a team, and instilling discipline in every facet of my day—were humbling. A few months later, I began my freshman year at LSU, while simultaneously serving in the Army National Guard weekends and summers. I took what I learned in boot camp and applied it to my studies and my life.
In 2000, I completed the semester early and was deployed on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a public relations specialist. I traveled with various teams, a camera in my hand and weapon on my back, to cover stories of interest about a psychological operations team helping Bosnian orphans, a heavy equipment operator who DJ’d on the side, and a mechanic who taught soldiers, including me, salsa lessons. This experience showed me that I could do anything. And by anything, I mean graduating from law school and becoming the first lawyer in my family.