The President's Page - December 15, 1999

Greeting the New Millennium

In the middle of his sophomore year, Michael Bosworth '00 decided that time was running out! The century, or more to the point, the millennium was about to turn, and Michael, an aspiring history major, was concerned that this milestone not slip by without proper commemoration. What better group to take on this assignment than the class that bridges two centuries, the Class of 2000? With the help of then class president Jen Jennings, Michael created the Princeton Millennium Project. Among their objectives, the project's organizers were intent on encouraging lively intellectual exchange on campus. They wanted to build their proposal around the University's informal motto "In the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations," and they set out to produce enjoyable programs. They also very much wanted to leave to the University and to the broader Princeton community a legacy that would last into the next millennium. I think they are succeeding on all fronts.

They chose three speakers to represent a variety of perspectives on the state of society as we approach the next millennium. Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, in October gave an address, "Democracy in the Next Millennium," reflecting on his experiences in Communist and post-Communist Poland. On February 8, Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will speak on the evolution of 20th-century American values and how they inform the political process. Toni Morrison, Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Humanities, will end the lecture series on April 18. Her address, which will take as its point of departure the challenge of preserving discrete regional and ethnic cultures in a rapidly changing world, will be followed by a campus-wide celebration.

In addition to the lecture series, the project is sponsoring several other ways to promote dialogue and student participation in the discussion of issues that stretch beyond our immediate concerns. The Millennium Essay Contest for Princeton undergraduates invites students to reflect on the question, "Will our civilization continue to sustain its apparent faith in concepts like democracy, the free market, and technology, or will the next century challenge many of the beliefs that our society considers enduring?" As I was writing this page, submissions were still coming in, but a sample of essay topics received so far suggests the diversity of student interest: the challenges of racism, the emergence of Africa as a global superpower, the impact of technology on reproduction and religion, the end of liberalism, the erosion of privacy, and the decline of western artistic, musical and cultural dominance.

A second essay contest offers area high school students a chance to think creatively about improving their communities. Their essays must be specific in terms of the impact they hope to achieve and how their proposals would be executed. The Millennium Project not only will award the winner a $1,000 prize, but will donate seed money to a local community organization to begin implementing the winning proposal.

Finally, an archival project has been initiated to preserve accounts of the lives of a sample of faculty, staff and students. Over a three-day period, participants will record their thoughts on their past, present and future Princeton experiences, including a description of a day's worth of activities and social interactions, and their speculations about the influence Princeton will have on them later in life.

The University will also host a special New Year's eve celebration this year for the Princeton community. After the traditional town-gown program, Curtain Calls, members of the community have been invited to assemble on the front lawn of Nassau Hall, which will be illuminated by candles, to sing "Auld Lang Syne," to watch the ball drop in Times Square on large-screen TV, and to be part of a commemorative photograph. Sparkling torch flashlights, bagpipes, and town-wide bell ringing all will help see in the new year with fanfare.

From another perspective, we are taking steps to ensure that our entrance into the year 2000 is as uneventful and unremarkable as possible. Thanks to a campus-wide Y2K preparedness program begun several years ago, we are confident that the University's computer and other systems are prepared to make a smooth transition from 1999 to 2000. At the same time, we know that we may have missed something, or that we might be affected by external producers of various critical services. As a result,

I have asked key staff to remain on campus New Year's weekend to help meet any unanticipated challenges.

My wife, Vivian, joins me in wishing all of you and your families a joyful New Year!

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