Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn't give many personal speeches, but he recently made a rare public speech at the U.N. on December 10 while receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater, Auburn University.
He began his speech by explaining how "growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, I saw the devastating impacts of discrimination..." and then details seeing a "cross burning" not too far from his home as a young person and that he understood it was a symbol of "ignorance, of hatred, and anyone different than the majority. I can never understand it." He continues by stating, "Since these early days, I have seen and experienced many other types of discrimination and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority."
Although Cook has never spoken publicly or to the media about being gay, the intensely private man who runs one of the most powerful companies in the world, has been named the most powerful LGBT person in the world in Out's annual power list. It feels like a landmark speech for Cook, who went on to talk openly about LGBT rights, saying, that the company supports legislation that "demands equality and nondiscrimination for all employees, regardless of who they love," referring to ENDA. After that statement, he received spontaneous applause, before continuing: “Now is the time to write these basic principles of human dignity into the book of law.”
He invoked the words of Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying we had the opportunity to "eliminate discrimination of the GLBT community." Cook also made an exhortation, a challenge, to “Vote against discrimination...Do not do them because they are economically sound — although they are — do them because they are right and just. Never allow the majority to limit the rights of the minority. Never allow people who fear anyone different from themselves to limit other's human rights or human dignity.”
Watch the video of his speech below: