Goodall on the Rose Parade wave, football and honoring the earth

As grand marshal of the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade, British primatologist Jane Goodall got the grandest possible tour of Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day.

Best known for her decades-long studies of chimpanzee behavior in the wilds of Tanzania, Goodall, 78, doesn't follow American football but said she was honored to also toss the coin at the start of this year's Rose Bowl Game.


Between parade and game, Goodall, Tournament President Sally Bixby and Rose Queen Vanessa Manjarrez and her Royal Court took a few moments to relax and eat inside a V.I.P. tailgate tent just outside the stadium.

A vegetarian, the soft-spoken Goodall enjoyed a modest meal of pasta, bread, cheese and tomato with a small glass of red wine.


During the parade, Goodall rode with representatives from Roots and Shoots, an international youth activism group she founded to advance environmental, animal and human rights causes. At lunch she was accompanied by her son and two grandchildren, who flew in from Tanzania, and her sister, niece and her niece's two sons.

Pasadena Sun: How did you like being in the parade?

Jane Goodall: Well I had enormous fun, but my big problem was all the time there were people on both sides, and you can't look at them and wave at both sides at the same time. What you do, you look one way and look up the line as far as you can, waving, and then you quickly turn [to the other side] and you start looking back.

Q: Do you see any similarities between primate behavior and human football rituals?


A: Not really between chimps and football, but I think how football relates to what I talk about is the importance of coming together, coordination, building a team—everybody knowing the plays and that together you can do what no individual can do. I'm also fascinated by the sheer physical movement. I like to watch [football] without the sound. I just like to watch the movements.

If I knew anything about football, it would be English soccer. I've watched one football game in my life, English, and that was in Barcelona.

Q: Who was riding in the parade with you?

A: In the carriage with me I had three representatives from three different groups of our youth program, Roots and Shoots. We had high school, middle school and junior school. And that's a program that's now in 132 countries, and we have members from preschool all the way through university.

But then I also had the dog for part of the time, and he was walking for the homeless dogs of America. Dogs have always been very, very important in my life. When I was a child, I grew up with a dog. And when I went to Cambridge University to get my Ph.D, the professors told me I couldn’t talk about chimpanzees having personalities, minds or emotions, because that was unique to us. I immediately knew they were wrong because of my dog.

My guinea pigs had different personalities. All animals do.

Q: What do you think about flipping the coin for the Rose Bowl Game. Are you nervous?

A: Well, I was nervous. I thought I had to flip it and catch it. But I don't, so I'm not nervous at all. You see, I've only got half a thumb because it got bitten off [by a chimpanzee during research]. That makes it very difficult to do an accurate flip.


Q: What's your take on the parade's theme, 'Oh, the Places You'll Go'?

A: Well, I've slightly twisted that. I've been lucky, I've been amazing places. Young people today, the world's open for them and there are beautiful places where they can go. But if we don't get together and try to heal some of the scars we've inflicted [on the earth], what about in 100 years? How many of the places where the young people can go today will still be there?

The main message of Roots and Shoots is every individual makes a difference every day. If we all make small choices, but environmentally and socially responsible choices — like what we eat and what we wear, how we get from A to B, how we interact with people — millions and millions of small choices will make the kind of change we need for our great grandchildren.