BOSTON (Reuters) - A Google executive who became the face of the Egyptian democratic uprisings earlier this year said on Monday that social networking was now a key to political activism.
“You can’t keep a dictatorship alive in the highly connected 21st century,” Wael Ghonim said in Boston.
Ghonim accepted the John F. Kennedy Library’s “Profiles in Courage” award on behalf of the Egyptian people, who stood up in January and February to help topple the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
The award honors slain President John F. Kennedy, whose 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by the same name profiled U.S. senators who worked across party lines on unpopular issues. Past recipients include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Sheila Bair.
Ghonim, 30, helped crystallize Egypt’s political movement, in part, by creating a Facebook page in June 2010 that condemned the violent killing of an Alexandria businessman by Egyptian police.
The page, “We are all Khaled Said,” later became a vehicle to promote democracy and organize large-scale pro-democracy protests in Cairo, including a “Day of Revolt” on Jan 25 that drew tens of thousands of ordinary Egyptians onto the streets.
“Wael’s single act provided the spark for countless others, and a movement began to build,” said Caroline Kennedy, the president’s daughter and head of the JFK Library Foundation. “The people of Egypt used the power of citizen activism to break down barriers of isolation and fear.”
Ghonim was detained by Egyptian police for 11 days during the uprisings, but released after pressure from international human rights groups as well as his company.
“The younger generation in the Arab world sent a strong message to every dictator,” Ghonim said. “The struggle for freedom in Egypt isn’t over yet,” he added.
Also lauded at the awards on Monday was Elizabeth Redenbaugh, a North Carolina school board member who stood up — ultimately in vain — against what she perceived as racial segregation in school redistricting plans.
Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Greg McCune