Below is a video and the text of the opening speech of the new ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade at ICANN Prague:
Watch the video: ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé opening speech at ICANN Prague – 25 June 2012
Thank you, Steve. And I add my thanks also to Minister Kuba and to Ondrej Filip for the great welcome for our hosts here. Thank you. And special thanks to Rod who has graciously welcomed me into this community. Thank you, Rod.
I think many of you want to know who am I. I have met as many of you as I could over the last two days, shook many hands, but many people don’t know me. I’m new to the ICANN community. So let me start by sharing some things about me.
Of course, I have watched with a smile the newspaper reports over the last two days since my announcement. The Lebanese claim a Lebanese is now leading ICANN, an Egyptian is heading ICANN, a U.S., an American is heading ICANN. So I’m watching all of this and you might be saying: who is this guy? And really being American or being Egyptian or being Lebanese, this is just my identity card. What you want to know is what is my identity, not my identity card.
And as the Greek author Ami Maloof wrote: your identity is really what you have done. It is a collection of all the things you have done in your journey. So if you want to know my identity for those of you from different parts of the world saying: is this another American running this? Is this the Arab spring coming to lead ICANN? What is going on here? I think you just read where I’ve been, and that will tell you who I am.
my identity is within me, and I will bring everything I’ve done to the service of ICANNSo my identity is within me, and I will bring everything I’ve done to the service of ICANN. That’s the most important part. But in practice, I was — I’m born of Egyptian parents who moved around the world. They lived in [city name] and Sudan a little bit and then in Cairo and then moved to Beirut and that’s where I was born. Grew up in Beirut, in a very French part of Beirut. So even as a child, the little nuns made sure that I spoke French til noon and if I spoke Arabic in the morning, I was going to be sent to the room and put some milk in my ears and the mice will come. So we only spoke French til noon.
And then in the afternoon, I became completely Arabic. I couldn’t speak French. So even then my identity was already being formed, and I would go home and I have Egyptian parents who were from a minority of Coptic Christians in Egypt who left Egypt in the 1940s. This experience of growing up in a war-torn country where I had to learn obviously to lose everything, to lose friends, to lose what I grew up with and being whisked out of Beirut during a very difficult time. My dad found out that some of my friends were telling me how to use guns at the age of 13, so supposedly I could defend our little city. And so he put me on a little lorry and shipped me to Damascus and said ‘don’t come back’. And I actually did it. I came in and out back to Beirut but the war was still going on until, as you know, quite late.
And then I frankly want to tell you this because many people look at this experience and say ‘how horrible’. I look at it and say how lucky, how lucky to have had this experience to learn what is important at this age and to grow up and go to the United States and embrace a brand-new culture.
I arrived to the US, I did not speak English. I was 18, and my first job was to peel onions. I did that for seven months. It was remarkable. Tried to do that for three days. [laughter] It’s painful.
But it taught me many things, and I did go to school to learn English at the time and grew from that experience to learn of the generosity of the world. An alone young man in a place of linguistic limitations, grow up and so many people supporting me, so many people helping me. I was talking yesterday to someone here who used to be at Bell Labs, a place I stopped by along the way, and I shared with her how AT&T covered all my expenses to go to Stanford university and paid my salary while I was there and didn’t ask me to come back and work for them.
This is the generosity that I will bring and I have brought to every endeavorThey said, you know, ‘just go do the right thing and when you finish and you gain this knowledge, use it well’. This is remarkable. This is the generosity that I will bring and I have brought to every endeavor that I took.
And I think this community has been nothing but generous to the world. What you give the world and the Internet is an amazing gift. I mentioned in the press conference that the Internet has been at the basis of every success I made in business, and I have never had anyone show up at my door and say ‘oh, we enabled your last business, we need a percentage of what you did. We enabled this next business you are about to build.’ No one asked me for anything.
This great gift of watching today in Cairo, my fellow Egyptians celebrate a new president, enabled by the great power of the InternetMy mother who’s 87 and living with me had never used a typewriter all her life. We got her a iPad. And she now is connected to all the people that she has left from [city name] all the way to Los Angeles over 50 years. All enabled by the Internet. This great gift of watching today in Cairo, my fellow Egyptians celebrate a new president, enabled by the great power of the Internet that was available to them to tell the world what they’re feeling. These are all gifts. They’re gifts and we cannot frankly overblow this, but it is critical and it is important and it must remain the way it is, a gift to all people. It is the greatest public gift.
And, lastly, I want to mention something. Along my little journey I had the privilege in 1998 to start RosettaNet. For those of you who are not familiar with RosettaNet, RosettaNet was a multi-stakeholder standards body. I didn’t know the world “multi-stakeholder” then, but that’s what it is. And I brought together the whole IT sector. And if any of you here have tried to get Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and IBM and HP to sit around in a room and agree on what kind of coffee, you know you would get 28 ICT companies in the world to agree on standards who define how their business processes work was not easy. In, in fact, everyone that I told ‘I’m going to do this’ told me that I should check my head, that this would not be possible.
Within 40 days, the 28 leading companies of the ICT sector worldwide, not just in the US, were sitting around a table and building RosettaNet. And just as a small note here, ‘rosetta’ is the stone that was found in Egypt a couple hundred years ago by Napoleon’s armies. For those of may have visited the British Museum in London and have seen it, you know that the Rosetta Stone has three languages on it and this is very important. It is not about creating a single language, we all know what happened to Esperanto. It is about a stone that enables understanding between languages. In the way this is the message.
It is about how we come together to listen to each other and build things togetherNeither ICANN nor RosettaNet could have imposed any one way to do things or one country’s view of things. It is about an understanding. It is about how we come together to listen to each other and build things together. This is the symbol of the Rosetta Stone. Now, with this I think I should get back to my note, otherwise we’ll know too much about me. And I want to tell you a little bit more about my values and what drives me.
I mentioned this in the press conference, and I’m going to repeat this. I am driven by building consensus. It is the reason I am here today. There is no other reason. I love doing this. Bringing communities that on the face of it could never be brought together to agree on common things is exactly what I strive to do. I do it not just here, I do it in my community, in my church and also in my home, in my family. This is what drives me.
And I think this is foundational for the multi-stakeholder environment. If we do not start with this, we will only deliver the words. We will not do it. And I am all about inclusion, and inclusion starts by stepping out of the organization and looking at it from the outside, not being inside and seeing everything our way. So the first thing we need to do, and I will do, is I will step outside and look from the outside in and listen and include everyone that needs to be brought into ICANN from the beginning, from day one. This will be in my DNA in how I will work.
Now, those of you who appreciate the multi-stakeholder model would say this is much harder. It is a lot easier, there are other easier ways to do things. Yes, this is not easy. This is going to require patience and hard work. But, frankly, it yields a much richer value to everybody when we do it. So it is harder, but we will do it.
I will manage the staff with a very strong decision-making model from the beginningI come — besides RosettaNet and all my personal endeavors in the non-profit world, I come from a business mind-set which says that decisions must be made clearly, deliberately and in a strong approach. I will do this with a team. I’m not known to make decisions on my own. In fact, I’ve been reproached about that. I like to involve the whole community to listen and a strong team to help me arrive to the right conclusions. And then I will present these to the community and I will manage the staff with a very strong decision-making model from the beginning. And we need that today. We have a lot of work ahead.
I care much more about getting things done than about figuring out who should get the credit. We will focus on getting things done, and this is what we need to do today. And, finally, I want to tell you that mutual understanding is an area that I will invest a lot of time in. I saw yesterday the GAC meeting and how the dialogue can actually get us all much closer to understanding what is worrying us. I shared with some of the members of the GAC after the meeting my understanding, my listening as to what’s happening in that room and what are their worries. And I will do the same with the GNSO and all the other SO and AC groups. Mutual listening and understanding is fundamental to my values.
I’m new to all of this, and today you will not get many exact, specific road-map items from me. By Toronto I will be ready, and I will spend the next three months getting ready. But I will tell you, there are two things that I must bring up today that are very important from what I’ve seen.
Being international is from inside out. It’s understanding from the ground up how other cultures thinkThe first: ICANN is an international organization and we must strive to make it international. And that’s not dressing. That is not an office in another country. That is not that I speak four languages. Being international is from inside out. It’s understanding from the ground up how other cultures think, how other people manage, and how we should all be understanding that not all of us have the same access. I spent time yesterday with the African delegation, with the Latin American delegation. I heard them and I felt their yearning to be reached. And I will spend time doing this. This is important.
And I will ensure that our people see it from the inside out as an international endeavor. It is who I am. Just look at my background. Just look at my confused identity, if you may call it, although I don’t find it confused. I simply find it broad, and I find it to be encompassing rather than limited to an identity card. And we will do the same at ICANN. So we will integrate everything in our daily work to make it international from day one.
Second thing, all the things I could say are meaningless if ICANN does not operate with excellence. It is all meaningless. People, process, systems. Fortunately or unfortunately I was also trained at IBM and at Bell Labs. You put these things together and you do them calmly, steadfastly, with a lot of precision and we will deliver. We cannot be expected to do less than the commercial world. We must be expected to do five times better, ten times better than the commercial world. This is critical to who we are.
So technical excellence, people excellence, contract management excellence. I didn’t learn that frankly until I got to IBM until I found out that the contract management department is larger than the contract-making department. And I said why? And they said because most people don’t manage their contracts. You got to spend time managing. Now, I know all these things are in place today at ICANN. But ICANN is experiencing a major change and major expansion. So it’s very important that I work with my colleague Akram to scale all these things and to make them happen and to ensure that no one in the community is doubting the operational quality and excellence of what is being delivered at ICANN every day. [applause]
Thank you. Look, these are times of great change for the ICANN community. The very fact that I’m here, someone who did not grow up in the ICANN community, that’s change. But I do have the background, the Internet has been every part of what I’ve done, and I have the technical background. I used to teach computer science. So I will bring all my qualities to the fore and I will work with this superb team that I met in the last few days to actually make sure that this change doesn’t bring us to our knees but, rather, it becomes a moment of greatness for us.
ICANN cannot become a fortress. ICANN must become an oasisBut in doing that and in doing it in a steadfast structured way, we cannot become a fortress. ICANN cannot become a fortress. ICANN must become an oasis, a place that people see and come to because it works, because it makes sense, because it’s efficient.
And oasis also because ICANN is part of an ecosystem. We’re not alone. We don’t run the Internet, in case anybody thought we did. We’re a part of an ecosystem of companies, of institutions, of fora that make this whole enterprise work, this sacred enterprise that has brought so much to people. You heard Ondrej speak about what it has done to them.
All of you know what it has done to your lives. So we have to keep ICANN as an oasis, and that I hope is what I’m remembered by when one day I pass the baton hopefully as graciously as Rod to the next person, that we open — we keep ICANN open just as it is today and have it become an attractive place. The multi-stakeholder model is also our responsibility. People need to look at it and copy it. We need to be a model of that.
Finally, I’d like to really thank the members of the Board of Directors for their trust in me, for what they’ve asked me to do here. I will do everything I can to live up to the trust you put in me, every one of you. Thank you.
And for those of you who — because Steve was brief with his remarks about the work they did, the amount of rigor that was put in selecting this candidate in front of you is remarkable, remarkable. The commitment, the passion that the board members put to select me — and I’m very humbled by this, extremely humbled by this, I will approach this role with the same humility every day until we pass the baton to the next leader.
Secondly, I want to thank the staff, those I met and those I look forward to meet for welcoming me. I’m your least — I’m going to be hopefully the one that will help each of you be very successful at what you do. I know how hard our staff works and I will take care of giving you the best environment so that you can grow.
And I want to thank Akram for stepping in while I’m trying to wind down some other things. Akram, as many of you know, is a friend, is a colleague. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to do what needs to be done, not just in the next three months, but hopefully in the years ahead while he and I walk step in step to deliver the ICANN you all want. And, finally, I want to thank my wife who’s here and my family who have brought me to here.
Okay. Way forward, I will make to you three pledges today. Number one, I will listen. I will listen to all of you. We may not always agree, and we shouldn’t. This is what the model is. But I will listen.
I will be very transparent, super transparentNumber two: I will be very transparent, super transparent. Is there a bigger word? Extra transparent. It’s very important that I remain — this is an oasis model. I have to be very transparent.
And, lastly: I will make all my decisions for the public interest, all my decisions for the public interest. These are my pledges. Thank you.