Tim Cook tells grads to ‘build a better future’ in virtual commencement speech

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Tim Cook called for Ohio State University grads to embrace hope in a fearful time during his virtual commencement address.
Tim Cook called for Ohio State University grads to embrace hope in a fearful time.
Photo: Ohio State University

In a virtual commencement address to Ohio State University grads Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about challenges the world faces in the time of COVID-19 and implored the outgoing students to “build a better future than the one you thought was certain.”

Cook, by now a seasoned commencement speaker, also discussed what he’s been doing during the coronavirus lockdown and mentioned his experiences working with Steve Jobs. You can check out his full commencement speech below.

Tim Cook says good can come out of difficulty

Cook began his virtual commencement speech by telling OSU grads he was “sorry that we’re not celebrating together.” Nonetheless, he said he hopes they will “wear these uncommon circumstances as a badge of honor.”

Cook continued that people who meet “times of historical challenge with their eyes and hearts open” often achieve the greatest positive impact. He referenced the books of Abraham Lincoln, saying anyone who “wants to put these times in perspective” should read them. (Cook said he has been reading them while at home.)

“Lincoln found his country on fire and chose to run into the flames,” Cook said. “And he gave everything he had to bring his people — chaotic and squabbling, fundamentally flawed, yet fundamentally good — along with him.”

Reflecting on his time at Apple, Cook talked about his excitement upon joining the company in 1998. He then said that, having thought he’d spend the rest of his career working with Steve Jobs, he suddenly found himself dealing with the Apple co-founder’s death. “The loneliness I felt when we lost Steve was proof that there is nothing more eternal, or more powerful, than the impact we have on others,” Cook said.

He ended on an inspiring, optimistic note. Cook said OSU graduates will arrive in a “world of difficulty” due to current conditions. They are “tasked with writing a story that is not necessarily of your choosing,” he said. Still, that story remains entirely theirs. While facing today’s challenges, Cook said they must strive to “build a better future” that embraces hope.

“Think anew. Act anew,” he said.

Tim Cook: Virtual (and regular) commencement speaker

During his time as Apple CEO, Cook has become a regular commencement speaker. In recent years, he delivered graduation speeches at The George Washington University, MIT, his former alma mater Duke University, Stanford and Tulane University. This one is different, due to the lack of a normal graduation ceremony thanks to COVID-19.

You can read a transcript of Cook’s virtual OSU commencement address here.