Tim Cook accepted the Ripple of Hope Award in New York last night. During his speech at the the benefit for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Apple CEO touched on a number of world issues, from protections for the LGBT community, to the Syrian refugee criss.
Cook also cited Robert F. Kennedy’s remarks from a 1966 speech promoting the idea that business plays an essential role in helping society solve its greatest problems. According to Cook, RFK’s ‘wonderful optimism’ is the kind of spirit that drives Apple.
“[Challenges] inspire us; they do not daunt us.” Cook said in his speech. “Like Robert Kennedy, we reject pessimism and cynicism. We see no contradiction between a hard-headed realism and an unshakable idealism that says anything is possible if we just get to work.”
Cook has long admired Bobby Kennedy, even though he was only 7 when Kennedy was assassinated during his 1968 presidential campaign. Two photographs of the former senator hang in the CEO’s Cupertino office.
“I think about his example,” Cook said. “What it means to me as an American, but also more specifically, to my role as Apple CEO.”
Ethel Kennedy, and her daughter Kerry Kennedy presented Cook with his award in the form of an RFK bust. Other honorees included civil rights leader John Lewis, Evercore’s Roger Altman, and Unesco ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis.
Tim Cook’s speech also hit on a number of controversial issues facing the U.S. Here are some of the highlight quotes:
“Today, more than half of the states in this country still don’t offer basic protections to gay or transgender people, leaving millions of people vulnerable to being fired or evicted because of who they are or who they love,” Cook said.
Syrian refugee crisis:
“Today, some in our country would turn away innocent men, women and children seeking refuge,” Cook said, “regardless of how many background checks they may submit to, simply based on where they were born. Victims of war and now victims of fear and misunderstanding.”
“Today, too many children are denied access to quality education simply because of the zip code they live in. They begin their lives facing strong headwinds and disadvantage they did nothing to deserve. We could do better, Robert Kennedy would say, and because we can do better, we must act.”