Jane Goodall to elementary students at UC Bot Garden: “You are my hope”

More than 100 elementary school students gathered at the UC Botanical Garden on Tuesday — surrounded by towering redwoods dappled in afternoon sun — to listen to some wise words from renowned primatologist and ethologist Jane Goodall.

UC Berkeley’s Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally produced the following video that highlights some of the special moments from the event. (Watch the full-length video on UC Berkeley’s Youtube page.)

Goodall travels the world 300 days a year to talk about Roots and Shoots, a program she started 25 years ago that encourages young people to start their own environmental, conservation and humanitarian projects in their communities.

“Each single one of you makes a difference every single day,” Goodall told the students. “You may feel like there’s not much I can do, I’m just one person. But if you’re part of Roots and Shoots, there are millions of people just like you all doing the same thing.”

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When Jane Goodall started studying chimpanzees in 1960, “no one knew anything about chimps living in the wild,” she told the students.

Goodall, 81, has dedicated her life’s work to understanding and protecting great apes and inspiring young people to help animals and other people, and to protect the world we all share.

She shared a personal story with the second- through fifth-graders — who came from Rosa Parks Elementary in Berkeley and Oakland’s Lighthouse Community Charter in and Vincent Academy — about how her work was inspired by Tarzan of the Apes, a book she read as a young child.

“It was when I read that book that I decided I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up,” said Goodall. “I’m going to go to Africa. I’m going to live with animals. And I’m going to write books about them. That was my dream.”

Even though most people didn’t take her seriously, she said there was one person who did.

“My mother told me, ‘Jane if you really want something, you’re going to have to work very hard. You’re going to have to take advantage of opportunities. And never give up.’” This is advice that she encouraged students to follow to accomplish their dreams.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall greeted UC Botanical Garden director Paul Licht as a chimpanzee would greet another chimp in the wild.

The students, who studied Goodall’s work with wild chimpanzees in what is now Tanzania, had a chance to ask Goodall questions they had prepared in class and talk about their class’s Roots and Shoots projects.

To one question, Goodall answered that her favorite animal was a dog. Not because she likes dogs more than chimpanzees, but because she doesn’t consider chimps animals since they’re so similar to humans, sharing 99 percent of the same DNA.

“Roots and Shoots is also about having fun and about hope,” she told the students. “There is hope. You’re the hope. You’re my hope. My reason for hope is the resilience of nature and the indomitable human spirit.”

Goodall’s visit to UC Berkeley helped launch the botanical garden’s own Roots and Shoots project, made with help from the students: a self-guided tour featuring more than 20 stories of plant and animal interactions that show how all life is interconnected — how plants and animals rely on one another for survival. The tour will run for the next two months.

To learn more about the UC Botanical Garden’s special events, programs and exhibitions, visit its website.