Ghonim is Google's head in of marketing for the Middle East and Africa. He was taken into police custody during the Egyptian protests on January 28 and released yesterday.
From the Times today, about the interview's impact on Egypt's revitalized protesters:
The impetus for the intensity of protest seemed, in part, to be the freeing of Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing executive and an organizer of the revolt, who was released on Monday after disappearing nearly two weeks ago. For some, he has offered the uprising a visible emblem drawn from the tech-savvy young people who ignited it.
“Please do not make me a hero,” Mr. Ghonim said in a voice trembling with emotion during a long interview on a popular television show on Monday night. He broke down completely when told of the hundreds of people who have died in clashes since the protests began.
“I want to express my condolences for all the Egyptians who died,” he said. “We were all down there for peaceful demonstrations,” he added. “The heroes were the ones on the street.”
In response, said Ahmed Meyer El Shamy, an executive with an international pharmaceutical company, who joined the protesters in Tahrir Square on Tuesday, “many, many people” had resolved to support the uprising “because of what they saw on TV last night.”
Here's a different interview, with Ghonim on the street shortly after his release. Click the CC icon on the bottom right of the video's men bar to see subtitles in English. The LA Times has a transcript:
First of all, I give my condolences to the Egyptian people who died. I give my condolences to them.
I can't say I apologize because none of us were breaking anything. Our protests were peaceful and our motto was "Do not break."
Second of all, I would like to say, please don't make a hero out of me. I am not a hero. On the contrary, I am a someone who has been sleeping for 12 days.
The heroes are the ones who went down to the streets. Please direct the camera on the right people.
Also, I am all right, thank God.
By God's will, by God's will, we will change our country. All the trash that has been happening in our country (Egypt) must be cleaned.
We are all one hand that will clean it, by God's will.
Here's a column on Ghonim by Scott Herhold in today's San Jose Mercury news. An extract:
We are fond of proclaiming the protests in Tunisia and Egypt as the Facebook or Twitter revolutions, as if technology alone shaped the uprising.
Unquestionably, technology offered a means of revolt, magnifying the way that a megaphone gathered crowds during student uprisings of the 1960s.
What we forget, however, is that every uprising also demands leaders willing to defy authority, to risk life and limb for what they believe is right.
In that sense, the story of Wael Ghonim, the young Google marketing executive who was released by Egyptian authorities Monday, should inspire us all....
The Wall Street Journal asked Google whether Ghonim violated the Mountain View-based company's policies. The Google spokesman declined to comment, saying they'd have to talk to Ghonim.
It was the wrong answer. Here's what the Google person should have said: "If Ghonim violated our policies, we'll deal with it internally. We have an obligation to make money."