Trinity University Press

Jane Goodall- Steve Dale

Without Raising Her Voice

Steve Dale

    I’ve been lucky in my career to interview celebrities ranging from Lucille Ball to Oprah Winfrey, as I was once an entertainment reporter. Over the past 20 years, in covering the world of companion animals I’ve spoken to animal welfare leaders and scientists from around the world. I am sometimes asked, though, which interview stands out the most. The answer is easy: the one with Dr. Jane Goodall.

    The first time I heard Dr. Goodall speak, it was at the Academy of Sciences in Chicago. I was among several hundred in the audience, waiting for her to appear. People were talking, and so there was that sound of general chatter that occurs before a speaker enters a room--until suddenly, it just stopped. Silence.

    From the back of the room entered this petite giant, and the spotlight followed her up the aisle to the podium. Except there was no spotlight. Not really. And yet, there was this bright, heavenly, transcendental glow, as if there was a spotlight on her. I’ve never before or since witnessed a presence like Jane Goodall’s.

    The audience ate up every word, and all of us were positively mesmerized. Yes, we learned more about chimpanzees, but her talk was so much more--really it was about all of us, and the human condition.

    The next morning I interviewed Dr. Goodall. The thought occurred to me that, while it’s wonderful what she has done to elevate the status of great apes and to protect them, chimpanzees in particular--her compassionate and brilliant judgment is what we need more of in the world. If we had ten Jane Goodalls running the world’s nations, we would live in a far better world.

    Jane Goodall is more than a superb researcher and primatologist, and more than an activist. Dr. Goodall has inspired world leaders to think differently, and she has herself made the world a better place without raising a fist, without threats and without even raising her voice. There is much more to learn from Jane Goodall, far beyond what she’s taught us about chimpanzees. Jane Goodall has taught us about ourselves.

    Steve Dale is the author of a twice-weekly national newspaper column, contributing editor to USA Weekend, and host of two national radio shows as well as Steve Dale’s Pet World on WGN radio, Chicago.