Detained Egyptian Google Executive's Moving Speech

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Google manager Wael Ghonim seemed like just another technocrat among the company's thousands of employees across the world. His LinkedIn profile lists his interests as "Internet surfing, reading management and marketing books, football, working out." Business associates praised his efficiency, calling him professional, energetic, and result-oriented. A student friend said you could "Count on him for practical, elegant, creative solutions, and the ability to communicate his methodologies to any audience."

One wouldn't think that Ghonim would find himself in the center of the Egyptian uprising. But maybe our social network profiles don't always tell the full story. Ghonim, head of marketing for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, was passionately dedicated to fomenting change in Egypt.

Ghonim turns out to have been one of the administrators of a Facebook page that promoted calls for nationwide protests against the government, he admitted in a recent interview with Dream TV. Foreign Policy provides backstory of that endeavor:

Many people here had speculated that Ghonim was the administrator of the "We Are All Khaled Said" Facebook page, set up to commemorate a 28-year-old youth who was brutally beaten to death on June 6, 2010, by police at an Internet cafe in Alexandria. It was the page's call for nationwide demonstrations across Egypt -- along with the spark provided by nearby Tunisia -- that lit the flame of revolution, activists say. What was so effective about the Jan. 25 protest was that "it was a clear call to action," said Nasser Weddady, civil rights outreach director for the American Islamic Congress in Boston. "Everybody wants to stop torture."

When the protests began in January, he begged off of work at Google and headed straight for Cairo, where he was snatched up by authorities and held for 12 days. As Foreign Policy argues, the hunt for Ghonim and his subsequent release may have "created an undisputed leader for a movement that in recent days has struggled to find its footing." Yesterday, he spoke on the privately owned television channel, Dream TV, and his emotional delivery and powerful call to national action may have solidified his reputation as a serious leader of the uprising.

In one particularly moving moment, Ghonim emotionally describes how the movement for change in Egypt emerged.

The heroes are the ones in the streets. The heroes are each one of us. There's no one on a horse, smacking the saddle and moving the people. Don't let the people deceive you and tell you that. This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet. This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet, which then became the revolution of the youth of Egypt. And now it's become the revolution of all of Egypt. There is no hero and there's no one that should take the seal. We are all heroes. That is it.

You can see the rest of the interview, transcribed and subtitled in English at the site, Alive in Egypt.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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