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Most knew her story by heart. But the hush that fell as soon as they heard Goodall's gentle, lilting voice proved they wanted to hear it again. All of it, from the beginning.
Goodall, the first speaker in the new Bucknell Forum series Revolution Redefined, started her talk by demonstrating a chimp call — "It means 'I'm game, I'm here,'" she explained.
She followed with a lesson for Professor Chris Martine, biology, on how to greet her as a male chimpanzee would. Only moments before, in his Bucknell Forum introduction, Martine had admitted that he — like many in attendance — has admired Goodall since he was a child.
Goodall's lesson made everyone laugh and ended with a hug for Martine, thoroughly and swiftly charming the nearly 2,000 people who saw it. In addition to the Bucknell students, faculty and staff who were there, the event drew attendees from the surrounding community as well as from Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and beyond. Two overflow venues were provided for those who did not find seats in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.
A natural storyteller, Goodall shared memories of her path from curious child to intrepid scientist to passionate advocate. She named her mother as the most powerful influence in her life, and the reason she felt confident enough to tackle seemingly impossible tasks — including delving into the Gombe jungle to study chimpanzees in the wild.
She encouraged the audience to do as her mother had taught her: "Be true to your convictions. Don't stop when you're told something can't be. Evaluate it yourself."
Goodall described how her career has slowly transformed over the years, in response to evolving global challenges that infringe upon the rights of
animals and humans alike. She works to help protect the earth, and to educate those who have the power to undo the damage wrought by generations before.
"There are three main problems that seem unsolvable," she said. "Poverty, unsustainable lifestyles and human population growth." Goodall also listed climate change, the imperiled ocean and factory farms as other pressing challenges.
"Every single one of us makes a difference, every single day," she said. "It's not too late to turn things around."
Her reasons for hope? Children, the "explosive development of our intellect" and the "indomitable human spirit." She urged the young people in attendance to join her youth program Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots, and to remember that "every day we live, we make an impact on the planet.
"That's the message I want to leave with you," she said. "If we live with our heads and hearts in harmony, we can reach our true human potential."
Goodall's talk ended the way it began: the awestruck crowd on its feet, tears in their eyes, clapping wildly.
Jane Goodall's Bucknell Forum talk "Sowing the Seeds of Hope" will air on WVIA on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m., Oct. 5 at 5 p.m., Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., Oct. 9 at 10 p.m., Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.
The Bucknell Forum
The Bucknell Forum series Revolution Redefined will continue on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, with a talk by Laverne Cox, a transgender advocate, producer and Emmy-nominated actress. The event, to be held in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University at 7:30 p.m. Seating information will be announced in the coming weeks.