Inside USD

Goodall Inspires with Words and Actions

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

goodall1.jpgJane Goodall spent two days on the University of San Diego campus last week and each event she participated in — planting a tree alongside members of the USD Anthropology Club, speaking to a group of local middle- and high school children, and to a general public audience at the Jenny Craig Pavilion — provided inspiration, education and passion for a better world. 

“Every single one of us makes a difference every single day,” says the 74-year-old Goodall, who is known for her work with chimpanzees and as a United Nations-designated Messenger of Peace. “If we would just spend a little time thinking about the consequences, the choices we make each day — what we buy, what we eat and wear, how we interact with animals and people — I think more people would make small changes. Even if people just make small changes, thinking about the impact they have on the planet, we’d start moving toward the kind of world that’s absolutely necessary if we care about our grandchildren.”

Goodall’s appearances served as one of several events tied to USD’s campus-wide commitment to sustainability. Events have taken place on campus since April 14 and each one has provided a unique opportunity to become more environmentally active. It’s an initiative that has Goodall’s seal of approval,  given her lifetime of goodwill service.

Goodall travels nearly 300 days a year, spreading the message of the Jane Goodall Institute, which started in 1977. One of her main projects now is the success of a youth-driven program, Roots and Shoots, which started with 16 high school students in Tanzania in 1991 and now has more than 8,500 groups in nearly 100 countries. The program is designed to teach young people to make a difference by helping people, animals and the environment. 

goodall5.jpgHer first appearance at USD, on April 16, involved planting a Pacific Madrone tree in the Garden of the Sea, located behind the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Goodall wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty as she helped fill in the hole around the tree with dirt and pat it down with her feet. “It’s a really good feeling to plant a tree,” she said. “It’s a very symbolic act.” 

Goodall,  cradling her companion Mr. H, a toy chimpanzee, in her arms, walked from the garden and soon appeared in the IPJ Theatre to deliver the keynote address before a few hundred school children that cheered and listened to her every word. She provided them with stories of her upbringing, her work with chimpanzees and encouraged them to be environmentally active. 

Goodall answered questions from the audience — many asking about her work with chimpanzees — and she also explained to one student from San Diego’s High Tech High School, via a live video-conference hookup, how to start her own Roots and Shoots chapter. Each question asked seemed to reaffirm one of Goodall’s strongest beliefs about the environmental future of our planet. 

“Talking with young people is one of my reasons for hope,” she said. 

Goodall delivered another inspiring message of hope the next night, April 17, when she spoke at the Jenny Craig Pavilion for the final Joan B. Kroc Distinguished Lecture Series event of the 2007-08 academic year. 

She spoke to the crowd about how she got interested in nature and again promoted environmental activism among young people. She said she receives letters from children worldwide who appreciate and are inspired by her work, noting one particularly poignant comment in one child’s letter, saying, “You’ve taught me that because you did it, I can do it, too.” 

A brochure for her institute says it best, “Whether we are furthering Dr. Goodall’s groundbreaking chimpanzee research, training Tanzanian villagers in sustainability agriculture and forestry, or supporting thousands of children around the world in their desire to make a difference, we recognize the interconnectedness of all: people, animals and the environment.” 

Goodall’s lead-by-example attitude seems to know no boundaries. A better environment for everyone has the potential to expand that goodwill in an even greater capacity. 

“One of my jobs as a (U.N.) Messenger of Peace is to promote awareness of U.N. Peace Day (held each September),” Goodall said. “We need to get together, around the world, and we need to envision peace. If we don’t even have a vision of peace, we’ll never get there.” 

For information on the Jane Goodall Institute or the Roots and Shoots program, go to 

For information about USD’s sustainability programs, go to

For information on the Joan B. Kroc Distinguished Lecture Series, go to

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