Dr. Jane Goodall’s Moving and Inspirational Keynote

Posted by Nicholas Anton

We had the pleasure this morning to be in the presence of greatness.  Dr. Jane Goodall, in her soft spoken manner shared with us her journey, her present efforts and hopes for the future. She was just a young girl when her father gave her a life-size stuffed chimpanzee she named Jubilee. Soon after, she started to dream of the jungles of Africa. While others put her down and told her to dream of other things (as this was not appropriate thoughts for a young girl) her mother offered endless encouragement. In fact, it would be her mother’s dedication to her daughter that would make Jane’s dream a reality as when Jane showed up in Tanzania at only 26, the government demanded she have a chaperone. And yes, her mother left England and stood by her side. She reflected on the impact her grandfather had on her life – although she had never met the man. She has a book of his sermons that she keeps close to her heart. She says her love of nature must have been in her genes (those were some good genes!!).

Most moving were her stories of the forest and the chimpanzees she came to know. How she was welcomed into the inner circle by David Greybeard – who allowed her to follow him one day through a bushel of thickets. As Jane appeared on the other side, he was waiting for her. She offered him a favored food but denied it. In response, however, he reached for her hand and held it as if to say – thank you.

I think this is about when my eyes began to well-up a bit. But as I was sitting in the front of the room I tried to stay strong. But, her stories continued and were too much and the tears did begin to fall. Just the tone of her voice as she recalled circling in a plane near her site to see only barren land where rich, lush forest use to stand was too much to take.

But there is hope.  She reminisced about an afternoon on her veranda in Dar es Salaam when 12 young Tanzanian girls shared their concerns about the state of their environment. They had asked Jane to help them “ yet Jane’s reply was to challenge them on what they could do to make change. The result of this afternoon was the start of Jane’s most successful program Roots and Shoots; now in over 130 countries. In fact she shared with us it was only 4 days ago that she was able to sway the Sheik of the UAE to open a branch. Now hundreds of thousands of youth around the word are making a difference. Our own SNHU students, who had a chance to sit with Jane, have pledged to start their own chapter when we return home.

The night before the sessions started we were treated to a tour of the Halki School of Theology – an extremely ancient school where Patriarch Bartholomew and those before him graduated from seminary. The Turkish government closed the school in 1971 and has refused to allow the Orthodox Church to reopen it. The community continues to care for it daily and if you step into any one of its classrooms it is as if there were students at the desks that very day. The artifacts and treasures are awesome and the sadness felt was unbearable. After, I had the opportunity to walk out with Jane from this monastery, which sits at the very top of the island, and prepared to take the horse carriage for our ride back to the hotel. “No”, Jane said. I could not bear to put those poor creatures through any more misery then what they are already exposed to. There are no cars allowed on the island so horse and carriage provides the only transport. Yet, even this type of alternative energy was not acceptable as it was at the cost of another living being. We walked down the hill darting out of the way of carriages crashing through on their way to and from the school. As we walked I asked where she was living these days and she said on a plane. Seventy-eight years old and she is home only a few days a month – truly remarkable. But this is also one of her biggest dilemmas. Sometimes it is hard for her to rationalize the carbon footprint of her travels. But when it is weighed against the good she does by inspiring all she meets – she accepts the tradeoff (stubbornly). I found that she also investigates where her clothes are made and makes extremely conscious decisions about things we never think twice about on a daily basis. It was a lovely walk – although I did pay for it with a few blisters later that evening.

Jane wears her compassion and empathy on her sleeve for all to see. How marvelous that such an icon can be so humble and so effective. Yet she also has a great wit and sense of humor. This was evident when she charmingly compared David Greybeard’s beard to that of His All-Holiness as he sat in the front row – truly a surreal moment for all those attending.

I promise to write more about the panel that followed but it is late (it is 1:06 AM) and the day was long……

I hope you are enjoying following our experience virtually. Please remember to send any questions to us and we will try to get your answers posted.