What this community is and what it is not

Published 7:41 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Donalsonville enjoyed its second Net Days this past week. The larger elementary school auditorium accommodated hundreds more people than those who viewed the first Net Days at the Olive Theater. The technology, sound, lighting and cameras were state of the art, allowing our community and other parts of the world to share their talents at the same time.

Children in Dalian, China, and children from Donalsonville, USA, both performed beautifully. The children both made their communities proud, though it was not a competition. It was about sharing, building bridges, and making the world just a bit smaller.

Performers from Shenzhen, China, were spectacular in showcasing their talent, as were the musicians from the University of South Alabama (USA), performing both from Mobile and on the stage live from Donalsonville. USA has invested a great deal in our first two Net Days through educational instruction and musical talent.

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There was even a Gospel R&B band on stage featuring a hometown man as the lead singer. Obviously there was a variety of talent for the diverse spectators around the world. Not bad for a small town in Southwest Georgia.

Thanks to Huawei’s telepresence technology, the audiences in Donalsonville, Mobile, Dalian and Shenzhen were brought together to enjoy an incredible night of music, and to learn more about each other through the medium of music. The language of music is understood worldwide.

A huge amount of work was put forth in presenting this showcase stretching around the globe. It is hard to put into words the efforts of so many, doing things I don’t even know how to explain.

I have said repeatedly that, “it is not about the internet.” I even said on Thursday that, “it is not about the music,” though that is why most people attended. The unrecognized star on stage was the technology, which enabled us to see and share music we could never have experienced otherwise.

One goal was to showcase to the world what Donalsonville has to offer. We have clearly raised the interest in Donalsonville by businesses and investors around our state, nation and yes, even in other countries.

Visitors from several international companies were present Thursday, via telepresence and in person. It is worth noting that those visiting in person were from countries other than China.

The construction of the network for the city is on schedule and is already being tested. High-speed Internet will soon be a reality in our small town. Yet, I say again, “It is not about the internet.”

The project widely known locally as the “Internet Project” is already producing results. The process has led to identifying long standing problems in the community and taking action to produce solutions now. After all, if company is coming don’t you want to have your house in order?

How will we ultimately measure our success? In my opinion, it won’t be by having the fastest internet in any rural city in America, as impressive as that may sound. It will be because we brought jobs to this town. It will be because we made the quality of life better for those who already live here. It will be because we changed the way we and others think about this city.

The goal is to lift up the community so we all benefit. The key word here is “all.” This project is a vehicle to provide education to those most at risk. Only when we can say that we improved the opportunities for our children and we see them coming back home can we know that our efforts paid off.

It is not a chance to download movies faster. It is not designed to simply showcase our talent, as amazing as it may be.

It is a platform for hope in a world changing so fast we can hardly keep up. It is a chance to look with pride on our community and know that we are a lighthouse to the world, as incredible and improbable as that may seem.

If your dream doesn’t scare you, then it isn’t big enough. Thanks to the generosity of a world-wide company, Huawei, this community has the opportunity to follow a dream and become more than we imagined. As I said, it isn’t about the internet. It is much bigger than that.