April 18, 2002

Goodall Finishes Tenure by Speaking on Life Lessons

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Dr. Jane A. Goodall addressed students and faculty in a spiritual service entitled “A Service of Hope” yesterday, in her final appearance as an A.D. White Professor-at-Large. Goodall spoke to a packed Sage Chapel on many life lessons she has acquired and, more specifically, during her four decades as a world-renown scientist.

The service, sponsored by the A.D. White Office and the Cornell United Religious Work, also included musical selections performed by the Sage Chapel Choir and the readings of passages from Goodall’s Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey.

Goodall, who amassed worldwide notoriety for her studies with chimpanzees, has received numerous international awards throughout her career including the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal. She has also received such honors as Commander of the Order of the British Empire by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

On Tuesday, she was named a messenger of peace by the United Nations, an honor bestowed upon only ten recipients around the world.

Introducing Goodall, Rev. Kenneth I. Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Work, called her a “world citizen” in reference to her numerous contributions to science and her worldwide humanitarian gestures.

Goodall began the address recounting her interest in Africa and its wildlife. While she was fascinated by jungle life, she had no finances to pursue a college education when she finished high school and worked menial jobs to save enough money to study in Africa. She also mentioned the difficulties she faced early on as a woman demonstrating an interest in science.

However, Goodall underscored the crucial role her mother played in encouraging her early fascination with wildlife and the pursuit of science. “She nurtured these dreams,” Goodall said.

Goodall used personal anecdotes to demonstrate the personality and developed character of the chimpanzees with whom she worked in Africa.

Emphasizing chimpanzees’ “sense of humor” and “sense of self,” Goodall said, “We’re not the only beings on this planet with personalities, minds and feelings.”

She stressed the need to understand humanity’s role in the natural world.

“[We need to] make people understand our relationship with the animal kingdom,” she said.

According to Goodall, humans are distinguished from the rest of the animal kingdom only by the creation of sophisticated languages, and with this ability comes worldwide responsibility.

“This ability we have to communicate in such a way … puts us in a position of stewardship over the planet,” she said.

Goodall also expounded on what she felt are the most pressing global problems. She expressed her concerns with natural issues such as endangered species, pollution and deforestation and with humanitarian issues such as worldwide hunger, violence, AIDS and other epidemics.

“It’s a very frightening world,” she said in reference to all of these challenges.

However, she also emphasized four reasons that she remains hopeful for the future: humanity’s ability to think, the resilience of nature and its capacity to heal itself, the human spirit of energy and finally the promise of youth in efforts such as Roots and Shoots, a worldwide humanitarian program for youth that she sponsors.

Referring to a conversation with Goodall regarding the events of Sept. 11, Clarke said, “There has been considerable demand and interest in her message of hope.”

Goodall, who was in New York City during the events of Sept. 11, used her podium to reflect on the catastrophe and its aftermath.

“We witnessed the very worst of what we were capable of doing … but at the same time, some of the best,” said Goodall in reference to the events of Sept. 11 and the heroic efforts of rescue workers and concerned people all over the world. “I’d like to think that those innocent people did not die in vain.

Calling for the world to unite in the interest of humanity and the environment, she said, “Yes, there is hope for the future … but so much of it depends on us.”

Goodall’s speech was met with praise. The service was followed by a book signing in the Willard Straight Memorial Room, where a long line of attendees gathered to meet the renown scientist.

“I thought it was very inspirational to say the least,” said Bryan Hen ’05. “It’s an honor to have her as an A.D. White Professor-at-Large. It’s sad in a way,” he said regarding the end of her tenure. “There are definitely reasons that we could use her always.”

Goodall was also met by much appreciation and support by the Cornell faction of Roots and Shoots.

“It’s really special to have her,” said Rotem Ayalon ’02, a member of Roots and Shoots. “We have been working on a multi-cultural education project that was her idea. … [Following Sept. 11], we were left with this feeling of hopelessness and she gave us reason for hope.”

Archived article by Ellen Miller