Jane Goodall spoke this week at the State Theatre as she opened the SmartTalk lecture series. A brief video of her work was shown before she was introduced to a full house. This was a different crowd from what I have seen in the past. There were more men than usual, and also groups of children attending this performance. It made me smile to think how many generations she has inspired.
Ms. Goodall greeted us first in English, and then in chimpanzee talk. She shared with us how she came from a modest family who lived London. Her mother encouraged her to follow her dreams, but warned her that she must be patient for them to come true, and she might have to take several steps to accomplish them. With hard work and determination, she made what seemed like the impossible possible.
Being that she was a young, white women in the late 1950s, travel to Africa was frowned upon. Little was known about the ‘Dark Continent’, but her fascination with one of her favorite books Tarzan, and love of animals drew her to the continent. She managed to save her money working as a waitress, and as luck would have it, got invited to Kenya by a friend. Soon after, Ms. Goodall met Louis Leaky who chose her for field observations of chimpanzees in the Gombe National Reserve in Tanzania. Everything fell into place.
Her family couldn’t afford to send her to college, so she only had a high school education, and no previous field work. Because of this, she was able to observe chimpanzees in their natural habitat with an unbiased perspective. Her unorthodox methods not only shook up the industry, but redefined how we think of animals.
In the late 70s Goodall became an activist and founded The Jane Goodall Institute to improve the treatment and preservation of great apes. In the early 90s she also founded Roots and Shoots to replant the forest after returning to the Gombe Natural Reserve noticing deforestation in the mountains. It’s really apparent how passionate Ms. Goodall is about her work. She encouraged us all to get involved with Roots and Shoots, whose mission is to basically save the planet by improving our local environment.
I really enjoyed hearing her speak. At the end, members of the audience asked questions that she answered, and then she signed books. The line started at the stage and extended out to the street! I was in awe of this woman who started out as a young girl who loved animals, and without the education became a major force in her industry, and an advocate for our planet and all creatures living on it. Now if that’s not motivational, I don’t know what is!
All photos are courtesy of Neil Anthony of 21st Century Digital.