The day before my high school graduation, I received a phone call that literally changed the course of my life. Earlier that year, I had deferred from college and applied for the position of Youth Leadership Fellow at Root & Shoots, a youth program founded by Dr. Jane Goodall. I had no back up plan and was about to graduate.
That call was to tell me that I had, after an application process that included four interviews, received the Fellowship. From September 2010 till May 2011, I was a full time paid member of the Roots & Shoots team. I travelled around the United States and internationally with the JGI team and, on my own, I spoke to thousands of young people, trained teachers in service learning, wrote hundreds of articles, did dozens of interviews and got to spend a few precious hours, spread out over many months, with Dr. Jane.
I didn't grow up obsessed with Jane Goodall. I didn't dress up as her for Halloween as a child, or collect clippings of National Geographic articles featuring her work. To be honest, if you'd asked me who she was, I would have had to rummaged around in the very back of my brain and would probably have ended up confusing her with Dian Fossey. Working with the Jane Goodall Institute, Roots & Shoots and Dr. Jane herself changed all of that for me.
Thursday, April 3, is Dr. Jane's 80th birthday, and I owe her a huge thank you.
Thank you for showing millions of girls that being smart is sexy.
Thank you for committing your life to a cause, and sticking by it.
Thank you for inspiring the next generation of activists.
Thank you for ringing the alarm on climate change and environmental degradation before many of us were ready to hear it.
Thank you for letting me be a part of the amazing organizations you have built.
Most of all, thank you for being you. If I've learned anything from the time we've been able to spend together, you are a force of nature. You are kind and compassionate, but will kick ass and lay down the law when required. You go from hiking in the jungle on a Monday to speaking to thousands on a Tuesday, as if it's no big deal.
You are an example to all women that being gentle does not make you weak, and that being soft-spoken does not mean that you have nothing to say.
Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.
You can take part in celebrating Dr. Jane Goodall's 80th birthday too!
1. Tune in to our live-on-YouTube Google+ hangout on April 3, 2014 at 11 a.m. PDT / 2 p.m. EDT / 6 p.m. GMT. That link takes you to the birthday campaign central. On the day of the birthday a YouTube player will appear at the top of the page and you can tune in to hear from Jane herself, hear about youth service projects that are being dedicated to her for her birthday and join in a live discussion with Jane.
2. Sign a global birthday card for Jane and tell your friends to sign as well. We know how much people want to share their well wishes and birthday greetings with Jane so we created this card to capture all of those great messages. We hope you'll sign and ask everyone you know to sign as well.
3. Support our Thunderclap campaign. When you sign up to support our Thunderclap campaign on April 3, right at the beginning of the Google hangout birthday party a message will be broadcast from your social media, as well as the social media of 500 other supporters. This is our way of sending back a GIANT pant hoot to Jane from across the globe showing how much we care about her, and thank her for her dedication to conservation and the protecting the environment we all share.
Originally posted on www.pippabiddle.com.