Tim Cook: How The Klan, MLK and Bobby Kennedy Shaped Me

Tim_Cook_Auburn_speech

While accepting a lifetime achievement award from Auburn University, his alma mater, Apple CEO Tim Cook told of how The Ku Klux Klan, Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy shaped his passion for human rights and equality. “Growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, I saw the devastating impacts of discrimination,” Cook said in New York on December 10th. “Remarkable people were denied opportunities and treated without basic human dignity solely because of the color of their skin.”

He recalled childhood memories of watching crosses burn on neighbors’ lawns in Alabama. “This image was permanently imprinted in my brain and it would change my life forever,” Cook said. “For me the cross burning was a symbol of ignorance, of hatred, and a fear of anyone different than the majority. I could never understand it, and I knew then that America’s and Alabama’s history would always be scarred by the hatred that it represented.”

You can watch the full speech below the fold:

Cook has been a very vocal supporter of workplace equality. He wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination based on gender or sexual identity. The proposed law was passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate but has not been taken up by the Republican-led House. During a recent Wall Street Conference call, Cook said he wants Apple to be “a force for good.”

Apple has non-discriminatory policies that Cook believes should now be written into law. “Now is the time to write these principles of basic human dignity into the book of law,” he said, noting that Apple is a company that deeply believes “in advancing humanity through its products and through the equality of all of its employees.”

Another point of Cook’s speech was the positive influence he sees Apple making on its customers. He shared that he receives hundreds of emails from customers every day, and he reads them all. “Last week, I received one from a single mom with a three-year-old autistic son who was completely nonverbal,” he said. “The child was recently given an iPad, and as a result, his mother told me that for the first time in his life he had found his voice.”

Cook noted that there are three photos in his office at Apple: 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,” he said. “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.”

Related
  • rogifan

    Hmm…Tim Cook is getting too political for my liking. And if he’s so concerned about gay rights why does he continue to hide the fact that he’s gay himself?

  • Gregory Wright

    @ rogifan

    Maybe its Tim’s political persuasion that disturbs you. You have wasted no time expressing your political view with that anti-Obama avatar.

  • BWinski

    Thank you Tim… I’m glad this history went on the record AGAIN. Especially in Alabamie… I share a common background with Cook and it seems that every time someone WHO WAS THERE to witness this history tries to tell the truth about this slice of our collective backgrounds, it gets turned into some kind of odd diatribe….

    THAT HISTORY HAPPENED…. We should all be doing everything we can so to GUARANTEE IT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN….

  • OneHungLow

    Hmm…Tim Cook is getting too political for my liking. And if he’s so concerned about gay rights why does he continue to hide the fact that he’s gay himself?

    Are you positive he’s gay? Has he admitted it publically? A lot of people make false accusations because they base it on their own viewpoints, when in fact, it’s actually far from reality. Don’t get in that habit. If he is, then that’s his thing and it shouldn’t have any impact on you from a personal standpoint. I’m not gay, but if two gay people want to get married, it has ZERO impact on me, since I’m not directly involved and it has no indirect impact on me and how i live my life.

    Tim Cook being political? Because he’s behind gay rights in the work place? That’s not being political. That’s more of a human rights issue than a political issue. And there such a thing as the Log Cabin Republicans. So gays are part of all political interests, so it makes this a bi-partisan not a liberal vs conservative nonsense.

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged: , |