Jane Goodall crawled into bed as a child with her hands full of earthworms. Covered in the dirt the worms brought with them, she was told their release would be the best for their health.
Goodall was born to love creatures. She shared her love at the Women's Symposium and Luncheon hosted by The Women's Philanthropy Board at the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.
She dreamed of Africa as a 10-year-old girl, only to be asked why she chose to dream of something so unattainable.
Women didn't do what she dreamed of doing in 1944, but her mother had a lot influence on her achievement.
Goodall's mother took her on holiday to a large farm and gave her the job of collecting eggs. She asked everyone at the farm, "How is the hole in the hen big enough for an egg to come out of?"
No one satisfied her curiosity.
"I crawled into an empty hen house and waited and waited and waited," Goodall said. "Which was fine for me, but my poor family had no clue where I was."
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The police had been called, and she had disappeared for a total of four hours. Goodall said she ran to her mother covered in straw. What she did next, was what made her the mother Goodall remembers so fondly.
"She saw my shining eyes and sat down to hear the wonderful story of how a hen lays an egg," Goodall said.
It was the making of a little scientist, Goodall said, and other mothers might have tampered with such attributes.
Her mother knew the curious young child would need to learn and grow. She figured out if learning came in the form of animals, Goodall was enthralled.
Her heroes were Dr. Doolittle and the king of the jungle, Tarzan. When she was 8 years old, she had her friends convinced that she could understand the dog's bark and the cat's meow.
With a straight face, Goodall looked into the faces of Auburn alumni and students and said, "Tarzan married the wrong Jane."
She did not grow up with the glow of a television screen or the vibrations of a cell phone.
"My heroes were in books," Goodall said. "I learned by listening to my elders and reading books, books, books."
When she embarked on her journey to Cape Town, Africa, Goodall found an untamable love for the world around her. She saw the color of the British ocean change from a frigid gray to a crisp blue as they rounded the tip and headed for shore.
Her mother followed her eventually, helping to foster withstanding relationships with the locals that have lasted the test of time.
"She was known as a white witch doctor," Goodall said. "Although she wasn't a doctor or even a nurse, she spent time with people, and she cared about people."
After excelling in the field and breaking glass ceilings, the need for a degree haunted Goodall, and she returned to London for a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.
She returned to the forest where she felt the most at home in Africa after earning her degree, dropping everything to hit the pavement as an activist. She travels 300 days a year.
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In 1956, she brought together a group of scientists in Ohio. At the conference, she saw horrifying studies of depleting forests and the live animal trade.
"The one that gave me nightmares for weeks was secretly filmed footage of chimpanzees — our closest-related relatives who can live 65 years or more — in five-by-five-foot cages," Goodall said. "They were subjected to sometimes extremely painful medical procedures."
Goodall went to the conference planning to carry on with her life in the forests of Africa and left as an activist. Starting with a few black and white banners glued to cardboard, she spoke in the countries where the chimpanzees resided.
While traveling, she simultaneously learned of the humanitarian atrocities plaguing the villages just outside of the forests where her beloved chimpanzees lived.
"As I am traveling around, spreading awareness and raising money, I was meeting so many young people who seemed to have little hope," Goodall said. "Some of them were depressed. Some of them were angry. Some of them were apathetic."
Those students told her that she had compromised their future — compromised the health, hope and growth of the environment they were to grow up in.
Goodall agreed. She said the human race has been stealing this planet rather than preparing it for future generations. She quoted a Native-American saying.
"We haven't inherited this planet from our parents, but borrowed it from our children."
Goodall said Scott Pruitt, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, has been leading the Agency away from policy and protection that has been in place for years. She said the environment is facing a list of setbacks.
But, with all of the darkness, pollution, climate change and destruction, Goodall has hope.
Next to her podium and every podium she ever speaks at sits Mr. H. He, a stuffed monkey, was gifted to Goodall from Gary Horn 32 years ago, who went blind in the United States Marine Corps. Despite his lack of sight, he wanted to be a magician.
The stuffed creature is carried on every red-eye flight, to every meeting and presentation. It is a reminder of humanity's indomitable spirit and dedication.
"But it's not only humans who have this indomitable spirit," Goodall said. "There are other animals who have the same indomitable spirit and can overcome tremendous hardship."
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