Google executive Wael Ghonim is rather humble about his role in 2010′s Arab Spring. This was a leaderless revolution, one in which people could believe in an idea and not a particular person. That being said, Wael Ghonim played a critical role.
Recently on NPR’s Morning Edition, Ghonim spoke with Steve Inskeep about his role in the toppling of Egypt’s long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak, and I took notice of a few items from the interview:
1. When Inskeep asks about the slow pace of reforms, Ghonim leads with the positive. I found it refreshing that he chose to begin with achievements, and that is a great way to keep supporters engaged in a campaign.
2. When Ghonim stated that the revolution had no leader, Inskeep pushed back. Paraphrasing, “You organized protests, you sent out dramatic, well-written statements. You did things that leaders do.” Ghonim’s response was that “This is not leadership. A leader directs a revolution. We worked to increase awareness and called people to action. Protests do not equal leadership.” Ghonim was obviously wise for using new media to increase awareness and visibility.
3. Ghonim’s views on cyberspace are noteworthy: “I am not a people person in the typical sense. I would rather communicate with people online than spend alot of time visiting them or going out to places in a group. I much prefer using email to the telephone. In short, I’m a real-life introvert yet an Internet extrovert.” I know people (like my dad) that feel we’re a lost generation, that we prefer to cower behind a keyboard because we’re unwilling or unable to interact with each other. Well, you can believe Ghonim’s words about being an introvert, or you can check out the picture above. He might not be comfortable in that public role, but he certainly tolerated the moment! That’s because he knew the stakes. We’re using new media because of its power and ease, but those of us moving the needle are doing “in-person” too.
It’s a great interview. Read the story and listen to NPR’s audio broadcast here. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.