Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jane Goodall

On Monday, January 16, 2012 (Martin Luther King's Day) Ashley had a dream come true -- she met Jane Goodall in person.

Dr. Goodall autographed Ashley's well-worn copy of her biography, "My life with chimpanzees."

In January 2011, Don and Ashley saw the movie, "Jane's Journey," at Princeton Public Library's Princeton Environmental Film Festival. The movie was about Jane Goodall's life and her mission to improve the environment. Ashley was enthralled by the film. She wants to start a Roots and Shoots program so she and her friends can help the environment (let me know if your kids are interested in forming a club). She is very passionate about the environment.

To her, meeting Jane Goodall would be like many other 9-year olds meeting Justin Bieber. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Last week Don read in a Princeton Patch blog as part of a lecture series, Jane Goodall was going to speak at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. We ordered three nosebleed seats -- in the very last row of the theater. Ashley's seat was dead center last row of the balcony, which in this theater meant she had stairs directly in front of her and no people blocking her view.

We arrived 45 minutes early (uncharacteristic for us). As we walked in the lobby we saw the official photographer, or rather I noticed his large Canon camera. He in turn eyed up my Panasonic, which looked even more impressive with the diffuser on it. He uses a similar Panasonic for fun. We get to chatting. He tells us he just met Jane Goodall -- he didn't even know who she was until he got the job a few days earlier. He was in awe of her. Ashley was holding her Jane Goodall book, which she was rereading in the car. He was impressed she had read her book. I told him it would be Ashley's dream to meet Jane Goodall. After a few minutes, he has to return to work taking more pictures. As the house wasn't yet open, we mingle in the lobby chatting with volunteers from Roots and Shoots. The photographer pops out of the door closest to us (again, dumb luck) and says "PSST." I take the hint, thank the volunteers, grab Don and Ashley and take them to the door. He quickly ushers us to the green room for a couple of minutes alone with Jane Goodall.

It was amazing. We were all so starstruck I'm amazed Don could work the camera well enough to take any pictures (for once we only had one camera with us). She was genteel, dainty, charming and so sweet. She signed Ashley's well-read copy of her book. 

For once our chatty daughter was silent. There were giant stars in her eyes. She could barely answer the simplest question, such as how old are you. I prompted her to take off her jacket to show Dr. Goodall her t-shirt, which read "Everyday is Earth Day," and chosen specifically for the lecture. Jane (how do you properly address such a legend when you, too, are starstruck?) told Ashley about Roots and Shoots. I said she wants to join, but there are no clubs in our area. To which Jane Goodall practically called me a slacker for not starting our own club. I can take a hint.

Fortunately (at our prompting) Ashley had written a list of questions to ask Jane Goodall (we anticipated a question and answer session, not a private meeting). We left the questions with her assistant. He said she would answer a couple of them on stage.

The moment was over as quickly as it started. By now the house was open so we were ushered outside to go back inside.

The lecture itself was fascinating. Jane Goodall greeted us in chimpanzee language. She spoke about her entire life from when she was a year or two and she brought worms into her bed. Her mother calmly said "now, Jane, those worms will not live if they stay in your bed. Help me take them outside." What a wonderful lesson in parenting! She spoke for about 45 minutes. She works 300 days a year. It sounds like her off days are spent writing books.
Jane Goodall's current mission is to encourage today's youth to work with her to rebuild the environment. "If humans are the most intelligent beings on earth, why is it that we are destroying our only home?” she said a couple of times. She is 79 years old and wants to improve the planet for her great grandchildren (she has a son and a grandson). She spoke of Roots and Shoots programs that are fixing streams in parts of the world.  Nature can heal itself, but we need to stop making it worse.

After speaking, she answered questions. Ashley's question was introduced by "this question is from Ashley, the girl you met before the program. Did you have any pets growing up?" Jane's answer, "oh yes, I had guinea pigs, hamsters, tortoise, and always cats." 

As we were leaving the line for her autograph was out of the theater. I would have gladly waited in it to give Ashley the chance to meet her idol, but was grateful we had the private audience beforehand.

Follow your dreams, everyone. 

We can all improve the environment. 

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