In the wake of Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, countless people have come forward to share stories about their journeys as refugees and immigrants. One of the most memorable— and concise — is a former Google executive’s tweet about his refugee story. In a tweet that has since gone viral, Laszlo Bock, former head of HR at Google, recalled his history fleeing communist Romania as a young boy, and eventually coming to the United States as a refugee. It’s a story that resoundingly strikes back at Trump’s refugee ban, and manages to do it with a mere 140 characters.
Bock’s tweet came as part of a meme that began on Saturday in response to Trump’s executive order. Someone uncovered a tweet posted by Trump Hotels in 20ll that read, “Tell us your favorite travel memory — was it a picture, a souvenir, a sunset? We'd love to hear it!” People protesting the travel ban responded to the question with accounts of they and their families’ “travel memories” as refugees and immigrants. One twitter user, for example, responded that his favorite travel memory was “hearing about my grandfather's perilous trip to America by boat as a child alone. I wonder if he would be let in today?” (You can read more responses to the meme here.)
Laszlo Bock, who resigned as Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations last summer after a decade with the company, chimed in with his own story, tweeting, “That time I fled Communist Romania to a refugee camp in Austria, came to America, & years later became an exec @Google creating 10ks of jobs.”
Bock elaborated on his history as a refugee and his journey to the United States to Fast Company, recounting,
In the early '70s, when I was quite young, (my brother and I) had tourist visas to go from Romania to Czechoslovakia for vacation. And instead my father and my mother took us to the border of Austria, and we snuck across the border and applied for political asylum in a refugee camp in Austria. And that refugee camp is still there, housing Syrian refugees, today. From there we applied for refugee status from the United Nations, and then came to the United States.
He also explained why he felt compelled to speak out, saying,
It's important to speak against the kind of trend in our culture to disregard the rights of people who are just as human as any of us. As somebody who worked hard and has been fortunate to end up in a position of some authority, status, and power, it's particularly important that I and people like me use our voices. I feel I have a responsibility to say something if something is wrong. You can't stand by and watch that happen.
For Bock, protesting the travel ban isn’t simply a matter of compassion — it’s also just good business. “It's an enormous problem,” Bock told CNN regarding the travel ban. “It doesn't affect just the seven countries. It sends a powerful signal that this is not a country that wants the best people in the world.” He suggested to CNN that if restrictions on immigration continue for the longterm, they may ultimately “shifts jobs out of America” as tech companies resort to hiring outside the United States.