NEW ORLEANS -- Dr. Jane Goodall spent hours with school children and teens Thursday teaching them how they can live their dreams and change the world.
The 82-year-old is considered a trailblazer for global conservation, and the understanding of chimpanzee behavior in the wild. She came with several messages and decades of groundbreaking experiences to share with eager minds.
At Academy of the Sacred Heart, she told hundreds of students from several schools because she had no money, was 'just a girl,' and Africa was so far away, people laughed at her dream of living there with wild animals and writing books. Her mother set her mind straight.
"If you really want something, you're really going to have to work hard, take advantage of opportunity and never give up," Dr. Goodall said her mother told her.
Taking that advice led her to change the world fighting for the environment, conservation, animals and the people of Africa.
"I knew if we didn't help them, there was no way we could save the chimpanzees because if you're starving and you live near a forest, you're going to cut down some more trees to sell them for fire wood," she said.
She knew conventional thinking was wrong. Even before living with and studying chimpanzees, Goodall said a "wonderful teacher" taught her animals do have thinking minds, emotions, unique personalities.
"That teacher was my dog Rusty," she said.
She learned how chimps, whose numbers have dwindled from one to two million 100 years ago, to only 250,000 now, can be brutal and aggressive like humans, but loving, kind, and compassionate like us too.
"I discovered that their bonds between family members are long and enduring just like us," Dr. Goodall told the students. "When you greet a friend you may hug, you may kiss. Chimpanzees do the same."
She said everybody should realize they make a difference every day.
"There are so many other ways,” she said. “We don't need to use fossil fuels. We don't actually need to eat, certainly not the amount of meat that's being eaten and wasted today. The sun, the wind, the tides, that's free energy. It's sustainable energy."
She worries we are stealing the future of the planet from children.
"Isn't it peculiar that the most intellectual creature that's ever walked on planet earth, is destroying its only home?" Dr. Goodall said referencing how our technology and knowledge have built rocket ships to Mars.
Goodall said as a little girl she was inspired by Tarzan books and how he lived in the jungle with animals but thought that he married the wrong Jane. She added it's true that when The Far Side comic cartoon had a girl chimp finding a blond hair on her mate and asking if he was hanging out with "tramp" Jane Goodall, she put a stop to legal action her foundation considered because she thought it was funny.
Schools at the speech were Academy of the Sacred heart, Holy Name of Jesus, Stuart Hall, Samuel Green Charter, Sophie B. Wright, and McGehee.
Goodall has a program called Roots and Shoots in 97 countries. Children of all ages can join and do projects for compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures, and to inspire action to make the world better place for people, animals, and the environment.