The millennium clock is ticking! Twenty-four months and counting to eradicate polio, close Chernobyl, correct Beethoven’s symphonies and get the world’s largest Ferris wheel spinning in Europe.
Only two years left to link every library and classroom to cyberspace, move 1 million more people from welfare to work and provide nurseries with an American elm tree resistant to deadly Dutch elm disease.
For years now, “By the year 2000 …” has been a cliche in speeches, reports and policy statements. If all this goal making hasn’t been just a lot of noisemaking, the world is going to be a very busy place between now and 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1, 2000.
“The year 2000 is a monumental, psychological and historical turning point that has always had a certain magical quality to it in people’s minds,” said Mark Mitten, president of a Chicago-based group working to celebrate the beginning of the next 1,000 years.
Technically, the millennium doesn’t begin until Jan. 1, 2001, but that won’t stop billions from celebrating the century changeover at midnight on the last day of 1999.
Time is wasting.
Two national fraternities, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Nu, have just 24 months to accomplish their goal to ban alcohol in chapter houses.
The U.S. National Arboretum has been working for decades to develop varieties of American elms that can fend off Dutch elm disease. The first of these new trees are to become widely available at retail nurseries for spring planting in 2000.
In Washington, political parties are narrowing candidate lists for the 2000 presidential race. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., thinks there should be a second GOP “Contract With America” in 2000. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., wants Congress to raise the minimum wage to $6.65 an hour by Sept. 1, 2000. Now, it’s $5.15.
“It’s because of this great milestone that we’re seeing more people looking ahead, and that’s exactly why this is an important time,” said John Locher, creator of the Everything2000 site on the World Wide Web. “If it makes individuals and corporations and organizations plan ahead more, hallelujah.”
President Clinton’s 2000 to-do list includes linking classrooms to the Internet and raising the percentage of American families that own their own homes from 65.4 percent to 67.5 percent.
Clinton also wants to move 1 million more people from welfare to work by 2000. Nearly 1 million families came off the welfare rolls in 1996 and the first half of 1997, but all sides agree that it will be more difficult to move the next wave of people - generally less skilled and with less work experience - into jobs.
Then there’s the impending computer catastrophe. Unless reprogrammed or replaced, some government and private computers will see 2000 as 1900, disrupting business, benefit checks and student loans.
“We can’t have the American people looking to a new century and a new millennium with their computers - the very symbol of modernity and the modern age - holding them back,” Clinton said.
The millennium clock is ticking in other parts of the world as well: To celebrate 2000, London plans to build a Ferris wheel that will swing riders 500 feet high on the banks of the River Thames across from the House of Parliament.
Ukraine has promised to close Chernobyl - the site of the worst nuclear accident - by 2000, but says it can’t without aid.
British musicologist Jonathan Del Mar plans to finish by 2000 the painstaking work of restoring Beethoven’s nine symphonies, correcting errors that have crept into the composer’s work from sloppy copying and years of publishing.
While some people keep setting new year-2000 goals, others have accepted defeat, or have given themselves a few more years, said Jay Gary. who hosts a daily Internet forum called “Talk 2000.”
“There is a whole resetting of the millennial clock,” said Gary of Colorado Springs, Colo. “People are still keeping their targets, but they’re extending the timetable.”
The U.S. government has conceded that the nation will not meet its goal to cut adult smoking to 15 percent by 2000. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in December that an estimated 24.7 percent of the nation’s adults, or 47 million people, were smokers in 1995.
Reported polio cases have been reduced by about 90 percent from 35,251 cases worldwide in 1988 to less than 4,000 in 1996, bringing the World Health Organization closer to wiping out polio by 2000.
“It’s probably like horseshoes,” said Barbara Reynolds, a CDC spokeswoman. “We might not make 2000, but we’ll be close.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Goals for 2000 Some millennium year-2000 goals set by politicians, agencies and organizations. The Library of Congress wants at least 50,000 of its more than 4 million maps on the Internet. The National Archives will let the public purchase copies of Nixon Watergate tapes. The anti-drug program D.A.R.E wants its materials in every middle school in America. Bill McCartney, founder of the Promise Keepers Christian men’s group, wants supporters, who are predominately white, to “end racism inside the church.” Military advisers say an allvolunteer army is impossible, but Russian President Boris Yeltsin has called for an end to the draft. Bob Dole says the GOP should consider a woman for the 2000 presidential ticket and suggests his wife, Elizabeth, head of the American Red Cross and former secretary of the Labor and Transportation. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan says he’ll preside at a mass wedding of 10,000 couples in a multiracial ceremony on the National Mall to “put God firmly at the center of our marriages and our family.” The government plans to prohibit most autos from the Grand Canyon and Zion national parks.