I met her once. More on that later. I have admired her for many years.
Back in 1960, at the age of 26, Jane left England to what is today Tanzania to enter the world of wild chimpanzees. She had a notebook and a pair of binoculars and not much more.
With great patience and observation she gained the trust of these initially shy creatures and came to understand their lives.
Nowadays, Jane Goodall is on the road more than 300 days per year. I was invited to a conference ten years ago in New York City for educators. I got into a line there for a hot drink and the woman in front of me was surprised and embarrassed to discover that you had to pay $3 for your coffee or tea. “Oh, my,” she said “I don’t have any money with me.” I offered to pay and only when she turned did I realize she was Jane Goodall.
She accepted my offer and then suggested we sit together with our drinks. I was starstruck. I knew she was the featured speaker that day. She was going to talk about her Roots and Shoots program. The Roots & Shoots program is about making positive change for people, animals and for the environment. It involves tens of thousands of young people in more than 120 countries. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action. Jane truly believes that young people, when informed and empowered to realize that what they do truly makes a difference, can indeed change the world.
We drank out tea. I never said anything about her or her work. I didn’t ask for an autograph. She did all the questioning. She was interested in where I taught, what I taught and why I taught. She was very interested in my volunteer work for endangered species in my home state of New Jersey. She thought that any work I was doing in my own local area was most valuable.
Today, Jane’s work has gone beyond the chimpanzees and includes endangered species (that does include chimpanzees) and encouraging others to do their part. The Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, but recognizes this can’t be accomplished without a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of local people who are critical to chimpanzee survival.
Dr. Jane is high on my list of the good people who live on our planet.
Today at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT you can join Dr. Jane Goodall for a live-on-YouTube Google+ Hangout birthday party. The program will feature will feature projects from Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots groups completed in Dr. Jane’s honor, birthday wishes from around the globe and a special message from Dr. Jane herself. A YouTube box will appear at the top of the page and all you will have to do is click play to tune in. You can join the hangout by posting questions on Google+, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #80yearsofJane.