Jane Goodall’s Message of Hope

The famed primatologist speaks about hope for the future.

Jane Goodall explains the many reasons she has hope for the future of our planet. (Photo by David Noe) Jane Goodall explains the many reasons she has hope for the future of our planet. (Photo by David Noe) In the final event of the Rollins Winter Park Institute’s spring season, preeminent conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall addressed nearly 4,000 audience members on Thursday, April 19, with her stories from the field, messages of peace and harmony, and calls to action to make the world a better place.

“Somewhere along the way, humankind lost its connection between heart and mind and began basing decisions on what is best for now, not what is best for our future,” Goodall said. “My greatest reason to have hope for our future is the indomitable spirit and energy of young people. When our backs are against the wall, we find a way to solve our greatest problems.”

“As a scientist, I find Jane Goodall’s achievement inspirational,” commented President Lewis Duncan in commemoration of her life’s work during a ceremonial stone installation in the Walk of Fame. The stone, which originated from the banks of Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve where Goodall began her field studies, celebrates her as a remarkable exemplar of Rollins College’s mission. “Her quest for understanding beyond geographic boundaries embodies the Rollins commitment to students of life-long learning, responsible leadership, and global citizenship.”

Goodall’s visit to Rollins afforded her the opportunity to speak directly to students from the honors and environmental studies programs. Outspoken student activists Christian Kebbel  ’12, Bethany Eriksen ’15, and Colleen Wilkowski ’15 were given the honor to lead the student discussion with Goodall. “I never imagined I would get to meet a visionary like Jane Goodall my first year at Rollins,” Wilkowski said. “Meeting her is reaffirming my dream to devote my life to service and change the world like she has.”

“One thing I find when I speak to members of your generation,” Goodall told the students, “is that young people your age don’t seem to have much faith in our ability to sort out during their lifetime the damage that’s been done to the planet. But it’s not true that there’s nothing we can do about it. The key to success is to only get involved with a cause or pursue a career for which you are passionate. If you really want something, work hard, take advantage of opportunities and never, ever give up. You will find a way.”

“I absolutely loved what she said about following my passion and being inspired by those around me,” said Arianna Woicekowski '15, an honors student in attendance who marveled at how approachable Goodall was. “I’m moved to reconsider how I will devote my talents and education to make an impact in the world.”

Goodall’s presentation paralleled that of the Animated Magazine, a tradition established 85 years ago by Rollins’ eighth president Hamilton Holt. In similar fashion to the thousands who gathered on Mills Lawn to hear the words of prominent thought-leaders, the significance, grandeur, and enthusiasm that surrounded Goodall’s visit to Rollins captured the attention and stimulated the minds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors from near and far.

“When young people understand the problems and challenges with which our planet is faced and are empowered to take action, they will follow their passions to make the world a better place,” she said. “Things may go wrong in life, but don’t give up. There’s always a way forward.”

Goodall was able to come to Rollins as part of the College’s weeklong Earth Day celebration during her promotion of the DisneyNature film Chimpanzee, which premiered in theaters on April 20. More information on the Institute’s fall season will soon be available on the Winter Park Institute website. Finally, on Wednesday, October 10, the Winter Park Institute will host Sheryl WuDunn, Kristof’s wife and Half the Sky co-author. Held in the Alfond Sports Center, this event will conclude with a book signing.