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Jane Goodall at TC Williams - So Inspiring!

I was thrilled to attend a presentation by Dr. Jane Goodall at TC Williams High School today, and grateful that my son was one of the middle-school students bused over to hear this brilliant, inspiring, and accomplished scientist and conservationist, whose work revolutionized her field. Primatologist Jane Goodall, considered the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, has written nearly 30 books and is still writing, somehow fitting it in with a heavy travel schedule, which has her on the road, speaking for peace, conservation, and education, 300 days a year.

Dr. Goodall started an outreach organization called Roots & Shoots, the Jane Goodall Institute’s global youth-led community-action program, comprised of thousands of young people, preK through college, inspired by "Dr. Jane" to make the world a better place.

In her presentation today, she told riveting stories about her work with chimpanzees and discussed similarities and differences between chimps and humans, whose DNA varies by only 1 percent. She also spoke of the need to protect the earth and all its inhabitants, showed film footage of her organization's conservation work, and inspired students to want to make a difference. Afterward, she helped plant a dogwood tree on the school grounds. "Every day you live," she said, "you make some kind of impact. And you get to choose what kind of impact you will make."

She certainly made an impact on the students. As we left the building, a high-school boy yelled out, "I love you, Jane Goodall!" I think we all felt the same.

"I think I was born loving animals!" said Dr. Goodall. As a child, she knew she wanted to spend her life living among wild animals and writing about them. Teachers and other adults told her that dream was an unrealistic one, especially for a girl. She credits her mother with encouraging her to work toward her goals and never give up.

Jane Goodall was 26 years old and didn't even have a college degree when she started living amidst and researching chimpanzees. The government of Tanzania wouldn't allow a young woman to work there alone, so at first her mother accompanied her! Later, her mentor, human evolutionary scientist Louis Leakey, arranged for her to enter a PhD program at Cambridge University. Her work revolutionized not only our perceptions about chimps, but also the way we define humanity.

TCW student leaders addressed the audience, introducing Dr. Goodall and highlighting some of the "green" practices in use at TCW, ACPS, and the city of Alexandria.


"Don't you find it peculiar that the creature with the greatest intellect is the one that's destroying its own planet?" asked Dr. Goodall. But she also believes there is reason for hope, because there is still a window of time in which we can take action and turn things around.

At age 10, she said, she was already passionate about animals and Africa, and saved up enough money to buy a copy of Tarzan of the Apes at a used book store. "I fell passionately in love with that glorious man of the jungle. So what did he do? He married the wrong Jane!"

Dr. Goodall carries these little friends with her to speaking engagements.  And I had my picture taken with one of them! Not a very good picture, I'm afraid. The person taking it didn't know to change the angle so I wouldn't have people and a signpost growing out of my head and shoulders. But the little animal friend is cute! Here it is:

Dr. Goodall says the focus of her work changed when she attended a conference that highlighted the problems of habitat destruction, illegal hunting, and invasive medical research on chimps. "I went to that conference as a scientist. I left as an activist."

Afterward, Dr. Goodall and TCW Principal Jesse Dingle planted a dogwood tree beside the school.