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Meeting Dr. Jane Goodall: A Student's Dream Becomes Reality

Two weeks ago Ryan Reding, a junior in high school, had the special privilege of meeting one of the world’s greatest conservationists and her personal role model, Dr. Jane Goodall.

Her journey to meeting Dr. Goodall had started a few months earlier, when she learned she would be introducing her – under bright lights and in front of a crowd over 500 strong – as the 2015 EF Global Student Leaders Summit keynote speaker in Costa Rica. And now, after weeks of preparation, the moment had arrived.

Before taking the stage, Ryan had the chance to meet with Dr. Goodall. “We were all sitting at a table and then Jane just came in. When she got to me, she said ‘and you must be Ryan.’ I wanted to say something intelligent but all I could say was ‘Hi.’ She reassured us that she was a real person, but I was in shock.”

It was a surreal moment for Ryan, but that was just the beginning.

Global Student Leaders Summit Introduction

As teachers and students were ushered into the room Ryan nervously took her seat. “I had my speech on my lap and I was bouncing my knees, so nervously, when someone near me said, ‘Oh, giving a speech?’” Ryan was so focused on introducing Dr. Goodall that she had not paid any attention to who she was sitting next to. “After looking up I realized that it was Severn Cullis-Suzuki, talking to ME! She asked if I was nervous. I told her I was, but it was ok. Everyone really wanted to hear Jane and what I said probably wouldn’t be remembered. She looked at me and said ‘I want to hear you.’”

Ryan got up on stage and delivered a powerful and emotional introduction. She shared why she has looked up to Dr. Goodall since she was a little girl, and spoke about how she is the person she is today because of her. As Ryan turned and started exiting the stage Dr. Goodall was already walking out to meet her. She stopped half way across the stage and hugged Ryan. “She gave me a hug and said thank you. It was such an amazing moment for me not only to say that speech to everyone, but to be saying to Jane what I’ve always wanted to tell her, as well. It was just such an honor for me, so humbling and yet reassuring to be in the presence of such incredible women.”

Jane Goodall Keynote Speaker Global Student Leaders Summit

Ryan’s introduction speech of Dr. Jane Goodall at the 2015 EF Global Student Leaders Summit:

When I was younger, I loved the story of Jane Goodall. The adventures she had and the excitement of living in Africa captivated me.

I was lucky. My childhood was full of the outdoors, animals and gardens. My dad taught ecology and environmental science at our high school, so I was brought up to love and respect nature. By the time I was in sixth grade, there were only three other girls my age in my science and math classes. Fortunately I had role models like Jane that reminded me that, that was okay.

Today, I have so much admiration for a role model who represents so many important causes and beliefs.

First, Dr. Goodall has given us incredible scientific contributions that have helped us learn a lot about our world. She is a humble leader in conservation and in activism. Here is a little bit of her story:

In July of 1960, Louis Leakey sent twenty-six year old Jane Goodall to what is now Gombe National Park in Tanzania. She was in love with Africa, a bright, funny girl who resented Tarzan for “marrying the wrong Jane”.

Leakey wanted someone to study chimpanzees in collaboration with his own research on human evolution. Compassion and quiet observance led to trust, and Jane Goodall became the only known person to be fully accepted into a wild chimpanzee society. Defeating the criticism of scientific leaders of the time, she received her PhD from Cambridge and became Dr. Jane Goodall.

She was determined and passionate, and the study took on a life of its own. Over fifty years later, Gombe still serves as a platform for learning. Jane Goodall was inspired into activism. Today she travels the world speaking on behalf of the chimpanzees and our environment.

She founded a program, Roots and Shoots, to educate the next generation, and the Jane Goodall Institution, supporting Gombe and conservation efforts around the world. The lasting impact her work has had, both in the scientific community and with the public is incredible.

I wish that we lived in a world where being a man or a woman in a certain field or career was an irrelevant detail, but that’s just not the case.

As the fight for gender equality around the world continues, stories like Jane’s continue to inspire me. She is not just one of the most intelligent and respected women scientists in the world. She is a brilliant leader in her field whose contributions have stood the test of time, and she happens to be a woman.

For that precedent, I am grateful. As a little girl, I fell in love with the idea of adventure and chasing your dreams. We choose people in life that inspire us. At first, we might want to be them, but then, they help shape who we become.

My favorite quote by Dr. Goodall says “you cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

All of us here today have to make that decision. As long as there are passionate people, who never stop learning, it’s not too late to change the world. We all have a past and a present that has gotten us where we are right now and made us who we are. The future is ours.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce one of my greatest role models. Please welcome United Nations Messenger of Peace and renowned conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall.

Jane proceeded to give an inspiring speech to the students and teachers at the Summit about the challenges she had to overcome as a woman in science, the discoveries she made with chimpanzees, and the environmental challenges we face today. During her speech students and teachers tweeted and Instagrammed their favorite moments, thoughts, and reactions. Below is a collection of posts that capture Ryan and Jane’s speeches and illustrate how they impacted the audience.

#inspiration #efsummit #janegoodall

A photo posted by Erin Marie (@nire13114) on

These extraordinary events combine educational tours and a two–day leadership conference, tackling significant global issues in places where they come to life. You and your students learn from experts such as Al Gore, Jane Goodall and Sir Ken Robinson, and U.S. and local students work together to design and present their own solutions to the issue. Each Summit empowers your students today to start becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Upcoming Summits will tackle the Future of Energy in Iceland, and Human Rights in Europe.

What happens when you combine a dedication to creating change with a passion for human rights? Check out more highlights from our last Summit!

Zach Michonski

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