Egypt’s Wael Ghonim, who has become the posterchild for Egypt’s protest movement, that took down President Hosni Mubarak after over 30 years in power, accepted the John F. Kennedy Library’s “Profiles in Courage” award on Monday.
In accepting the award on behalf of the Egyptian people, he said that social networking was a vital part of political activism.
“You can’t keep a dictatorship alive in the highly connected 21st century,” Wael Ghonim said in Boston.
The award honors slain President John F. Kennedy, whose 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by the same name profiled US senators who worked across party lines on unpopular issues. Past recipients include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Sheila Bair.
Ghonim, 30, became a major symbol of the Egyptian revolution after Google led a campaign to force the Egyptian government to release their executive. He then went on international news channels, and in tears, described his ordeal, which many Western commentators say re-energized the protests in the country that had begun to lose steam.
He is also given credit for launching the “We are all Khaled Said” Facebook page in June 2010, which announced nationwide protests to begin on January 25.
However, since his rise to stardom, he said on his Twitter page that he was writing a book on the importance of social media sites and revolution, and that he had little to do with the page after its creation and others, including Abdelrahman Mansour were the leaders who had called for the protests.
“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.”
By Joseph Mayton