Apple CEO Tim Cook received a Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater, Auburn University, on December 10th in New York. In his acceptance speech, Cook spoke about equality, human rights and how incidents during his childhood shaped his thoughts about these principles.
Tim Cook recounted his time in Alabama in the 1960s, when “remarkable people were denied opportunities and treated without basic human dignity, solely because of the color of their skin.” He also spoke about a cross-burning he witnessed at a family not far from where he lived. Cook said that this image, which represented ignorance, hatred, was permanently imprinted in his brain, and changed his life forever.
In his speech, Cook said that his office has three photos — two of Robert Kennedy, and one of Martin Luther King:
“They sacrificed everything, including their lives, as champions of human rights and of human dignity. Their images inspire me. They serve as a reminder to me every day that regardless of the path that one chooses, there are fundamental commitments that should be a part of one’s journey.”
He added that he was very fortunate to have ended up at Apple, a company that deeply believes in advancing humanity through its products and through the equality of all of its employees. From Cook’s speech:
Now, much has changed since my early days at Apple, but these values, which are the very heart of our company, remain the same. These values guide us to make our products accessible for everyone. People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged. They’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others. But Apple’s engineers pushed back against this unacceptable reality. They go to extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people with various disabilities from blindness and deafness, to various muscular disorders.
Cook cites an email from a single mom with an autistic son, who was completely non-verbal, but spoke his first words with an iPad. He also spoke about Apple’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was implemented at the company even before the legislation was passed by The Senate. The act demands equal workspace rights for people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Cook had in fact penned an editorial in The Wall Street Journal urging senators to support the legislation.
You can watch Cook’s entire 13-minute acceptance speech below:[via AllThingsD]