Jane Goodall-John K. Silver
On Becoming a True Believer
John K. Silver
In the spring of 2006, as the Executive Director of a charitable foundation (the Allene & Jerome Foundation), I was asked to look into something called “Roots & Shoots.” Roots & Shoots? I had never heard of it. I thought it might be a children’s game that I used to know called Shoots ‘n Ladders. Little did I know that my inquiry into that “children’s game” would change my life forever.
That change began with three events. First, the Allene & Jerome Lapides Foundation became a major funder of Roots & Shoots. Second, Allene Lapides, the President of the Foundation, became a Board member for JGI-US. Third, she appointed me as her representative to the Board.
As I began to understand JGI and Roots & Shoots better, I came to see that this “club for young naturalists” had the potential for being one of the most important programs for youth in the world, linking young people to their environment and their communities. Soon, I had taken it on as a personal crusade to make Roots & Shoots one of JGI’s core programs. This crusade led me to numerous meetings with Jane, and ultimately I became one of the more active spokespersons for Roots & Shoots in the United States. I travelled with Jane to speaking engagements around the country, had numerous late-night conversations over single malt with Jane in venues from New York to California, and even flew out to Gombe. There I became more impressed than ever with Jane’s remarkable character, and I saw how important it was for me to promote her Roots & Shoots vision. I became a true believer in Jane’s philosophy that everyone can make a difference by doing something positive for the environment in their communities every day.
In December of 2010, I got a call from some members of the JGI Board asking me and Don Kendall, my friend and colleague, to co-chair the JGI-US Board, and to help the Institute get back on track financially and focus more intensely on its core mission and values. That call was followed up by one from Jane, making sure Don and I would take on the challenge. As many people will appreciate, you cannot say “no” to Jane Goodall. Even though I did not think I had the knowledge or expertise to take on this huge responsibility, she convinced me, and Don, to try.
It is now 2014, and JGI-US is a vibrant institution. It is financially stable and totally focused on its core mission under the leadership of Mary Humphrey. And what’s very important to me as well: Roots & Shoots is thriving in the United States and around the world, and is a major program of the Jane Goodall Institute.
Thank you, Jane, for your friendship, your guidance, and everything you do to make the world a better place every day.
John K. Silver, an attorney in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the Executive Director of the Allene & Jerome Lapides Foundation. He currently serves as Co-Vice Chair of the Jane Goodall Institute-US, and is a member of the Jane Goodall Institute Global Board.