The 2011 TIME 100

Meet the most influential people in the world. They are artists and activists, reformers and researchers, heads of state and captains of industry. Their ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution. Welcome to this year's TIME 100

Wael Ghonim

Wael Ghonim

Martin Schoeller for TIME
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Wael Ghonim embodies the youth who constitute the majority of Egyptian society — a young man who excelled and became a Google executive but, as with many of his generation, remained apolitical due to loss of hope that things could change in a society permeated for decades with a culture of fear.

Over the past few years, Wael, 30, began working outside the box to make his peers understand that only their unstoppable people power could effect real change. He quickly grasped that social media, notably Facebook, were emerging as the most powerful communication tools to mobilize and develop ideas.

By emphasizing that the regime would listen only when citizens exercised their right of peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience, Wael helped initiate a call for a peaceful revolution.

The response was miraculous: a movement that started with thousands on Jan. 25 ended with 12 million Egyptians removing Hosni Mubarak and his regime. What Wael and the young Egyptians did spread like wildfire across the Arab world.

Thank you, Wael. Thank you to the Egyptian youth.

ElBaradei, an Egyptian politician, is a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency

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