Sunday, May 07, 2006


On Friday I heard Jane Goodall speak at Google. She was introduced by Rebecca from the Google Earth team, who described how googling for "Jane" brings up Jane Goodall as one of the top 3 results.

"How amazing that an English girl who grew up in a poor neighborhood would follow a path that would allow her to come speak to all of you today," Jane opened. "As a young girl, my imagination was ignited by Dr. DooLittle. And of course Tarzan, whom I instantly fell in love with."

The crowd chuckled.

"Then he went off and married that other wimpy Jane," she said. "I hope she was not one of the other 3 results from your Google search."

She introduced each member of her team one by one, gracious outlining their contributions and asking them to stand while the audience applauded. She thanked Rebecca for organizing this event.

Jane Goodall is one of the best public speakers I have ever heard in person. Certainly more inspiring than Al Gore, or Jimmy Carter. She ended with a story about a chimpanzee in a zoo which accidentally fell over a railing into a lake and was drowning. A man at the zoo with his family, Rick, vaulted over the railing to save him. Three large oncoming chimps descended toward him, but he stayed and made sure the young chimp was out of the water before vaulting back to his family.

I heard this story 3 years ago, when I heard her speak at Microsoft, but the second hearing still stirred in me a deep reverence.

She was recently given the highest honor that a woman can receive in the UK. She was named Grand Dame. And I can see why. She exudes classiness, even while imitating a chimp greeting call, which is as unladylike a behavior as I can imagine.

When she walked onto the podium before giving her speech, the audience clapped as usual, and 10% of the people stood. Then more stood, and more, until most of the audience was giving her a standing ovation before she'd said a word.

At the end of her talk, the entire audience of over 1000 people stood as one and gave her a resounding ovation for over 15 seconds. She watched serenely as we applauded, with no embarrassment at the attention. I felt that she was accepting it, not for herself, but for her causes of nature preservation and helping the people of Gombe.

I revere her because she works for the passion of it. Not for fame, or admiration, or wealth, though those have also come to her in due time.

I can't see why anyone would choose Tarzan's Jane over Jane Goodall.