Toward the beginning of the broadcast on ABC, Williams, looking stunning in a flowy, geometric-patterned gown, sang her 1997 song "Oh How the Years Go By." As she sang, accompanied by a group of gospel singers, images from her entire career — including from the year when she relinquished her crown — flashed on screens behind her.
Once she finished, to a standing ovation, Miss America's new CEO Sam Haskell made a lengthy apology, telling her, "On behalf of today's organization, I want to apologize." His warm speech was delivered with his arm around a glowing and receptive Williams, who thanked him for his integrity and leadership, and gave a shout-out to her proud mother in the audience.
Williams will serve as a judge of the pageant, her first appearance on the show since she was crowned.