On Monday afternoon, about 2,000 Google employees left their desks and took to the streets to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.
This employee-led rally was attended by Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who addressed the crowd about his own experiences — Brin’s family came to the US as refugees from the Soviet Union when he was a child, at the height of the Cold War. His remarks, as captured on YouTube, took many jabs at Trump’s policies.
“So many people were obviously outraged by this order, as am I myself, being an immigrant and a refugee,” Brin told the crowd.
“I’m glad to see the energy here today and around the world to know that people are fighting for what’s right out there,” Brin continued.
“I think it’s important to not frame this debate as being ‘liberal’ versus ‘Republican’ and so forth,” Brin told the crowd. “It’s a debate about fundamental values, about thoughtful policymaking and many of the other things that I think are — apparently not universally adored — but I think the vast majority of our country and of our legislators and so forth support.”
You can read a transcript of Brin’s full remarks below, in which he calls for unity — and makes a joke about sporting a “Pence 2017” bumper sticker, which could be taken as a call for Congress to impeach Trump.
Of note is that while Brin and Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke at this event, we’re told the official keynote speaker at the rally was Soufi Esmaeilzadeh, a Google product manager and Harvard Business School alum. Esmaeilzadeh is an Iranian-born Canadian citizen who has lived in the US for the past 15 years but had just landed in Switzerland when the order went into effect.
The ban has temporarily halted the US’s admission of refugees and barred immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the country.
While the company was unsure whether Esmaeilzadeh would be affected amid confusion over how Trump’s executive order would be carried out, Google opted to bring her home immediately, in the window granted by a federal court’s emergency stay of Trump’s order.
Pichai, who was born and raised in India, has been especially vocal in fighting Trump’s executive order on immigration. Google is setting up a $4 million emergency fund to help affected employees with legal and living costs. In a leaked email to Google employees, Pichai wrote, “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.”
Read what Brin told Google employees:
“But in all seriousness, so many people were obviously outraged by this order, as am I myself, being an immigrant and a refugee.
“I came here to the US at age 6 with my family from the Soviet Union which was at that time the greatest enemy the US had, maybe it still is. It was a dire period, the cold war, as some people remember it. It was under the threat of nuclear annihilation. And even then the US had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees.
“And I’d say the risks at the time, letting in these foreigners from a land that might spy on you, learn the nuclear secrets on the back…and there were many cases of espionage, those risks were far greater than the terrorism we face today. And nevertheless, this country was brave and welcoming and I wouldn’t be where I am today or have any kind of the life that I have today if this was not a brave country that really stood out and spoke for liberty.
“But to fast forward, Saturday night at SFO was a really warm wonderful experience to be honest. I saw so many of you there, I saw so many friends and family there, all with the same spirit. I found that very touching and I’m glad to see the energy here today and around the world to know that people are fighting for what’s right out there.
“I think that as we do that, and I’ve spent time talking to [Google CEO] Sundar [Pichai] about it and so forth, I think that we need to be smart about it too. And that means bringing in folks who have some different viewpoints and so forth. Maybe it’s somebody who we don’t agree with on climate change. But nevertheless, there are many rational, thoughtful people out there, who maybe they vote Republican, or Democrat or independent, or whatever, but are outraged by these kinds of actions. and it’s important to be welcoming and reach out to them. and in fact we’ve been working to do exactly that. Some of us might even adopt Pence 2017 bumper stickers.
“But I guess my point being, I think it’s important to not frame this debate as being liberal versus republican and so forth. It’s a debate about fundamental values , about thoughtful policymaking and many of the other things that I think are — apparently not universally adored — but I think the vast majority of our country and of our legislators and so forth support. And I think it’s important to frame it in that way and to be inclusive in that way. and sometimes think that might be really difficult because I know we have many many different values here that might not be universally shared. But I think these are really special times and i think it’s important to form friendships with many different people.
“I hope this energy carries forward in many different ways, beyond what just our company can do, beyond just what company can do, but as really a powerful force and really a powerful moment.”