Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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We all joined in at the first-ever Global Village party
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   01/14/2000)

The earth turned, time zone by time zone.

You could almost see it turning, even from Tennessee, simply by switching on your TV. Images of people celebrating around the world were served up like segments of an orange, slice by global slice.

Just half a century ago, no communications satellites existed. On Jan. 1, 2000, the entire world was attuned to them. This is news.

True it's a different kind of news, one that belies the old expression, "Good news is no news." The first tick of the 2000's, like the first tick of the Common Era, was all about good news.

Indeed, we experienced an eerily smooth transition from the 1900s to the 2000s. The weather, as witnessed on TV, was near-perfect in most every time zone, as an aged but ever-renewed mother earth rolled into a new millennium. The great wonders of the world, from the Pyramids to the Eiffel Tower, from the Acropolis to the Statue of Liberty, were bathed in glorious light. No celebrations were marred by terrorism. The Y2K bug metamorphosed into a butterfly and flew away. Sweetness and light were expressed from a thousand stages and pulpits.

What's more, a certain tidiness pertained. Not only were terrorists remarkable for their absence on Jan. 1, but hostages taken days earlier on an Indian jetliner were released. That former and forever Beatle, George Harrison, was already recovering from stab wounds that had punctuated the end of the 1900s in London. And Boris Yeltsin chose not to drag his political baggage and health concerns onto the political stage of 2000.

I don't know about you, but I was enthralled by all of it. The amazing technology, the spirit of good-will, the pervading sense of good fortune, and the implications for the future.

Philosopher, educator and architect Marshall McCluhan, way back in the sixties, predicted the advent of a "global village." I think we saw its arrival on Jan. 1. To be sure, there had been other world-wide media events. An awed international audience had watched Apollo 11 astronauts walk on the moon, and every Super Bowl is a global show, but no international hoopla had ever been so comprehensive or inclusive. None had sprung from so many points of origin as the party most of us joined in two weeks ago.

In the past I've offered the opinion that future historians would pick some portentous human event as the one marking a new millennium. The first moon landing for example, might be seen as the signal event of our times. Others might serve as well. Splitting the atom. Cloning Dolly. Global warming. Radio signals from the stars, when and if that occurs.

But it could be that New Year's Day, 2000, will itself be remembered for kicking off a new way of seeing the world. For millions of kids, it marks a new paradigm--an age in which we feel viscerally what scientists and explorers have been saying for centuries. The world is round. Watch it roll into sunlight. From Bangkok to Beloit. From New Delhi to Knoxville.

Still, old habits are hard to break, and some ways of thinking are so ingrained in language and the subconscious that they find expression centuries after they cease to make sense. So it was on New Year's Day, when a CNN anchor referred to celebrations in "all four corners of the globe." What an incongruous phrase to hear uttered in 2000. Yet there it was. Medieval, superstitious, contradictory. Past and present all rolled up in one confusing phrase. Proof that progress and human consciousness does not move tidily from age to age, but jerks along, like history, in fits and starts.

Still yet, for one long day--the first day of the year 2000--the world seemed to move with smooth precision, into a new, challenging and wondrous age.