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Tim Cook Expresses Thoughts on Equality in Auburn University Award Speech

Apple CEO Tim Cook received a lifetime achievement award from his alma mater Auburn University at a New York event on Tuesday, with a video of the speech surfacing on the college's YouTube channel today (via AllThingsD).

Throughout his remarks, Cook highlighted his overall support for the progression of human equality in the United States and throughout the world. The CEO cited a section from the United Nations preamble emphasizing equality, and talked about finding a company in Apple that “deeply believed in advancing humanity through its products and through the equality of all of its employees.“

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 also discussed his and Apple's support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which the CEO also championed in an op-ed written for The Wall Street Journal last month:
These values have also recently guided us to support legislation that demands equality and non-discrimination for all employees, regardless of how they love. This legislation, known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. I have long believed in this, and Apple has implemented protections for employees, even when the laws did not. Now is the time to write these principles of basic human dignity into the book of law.
Cook originally graduated from Auburn University in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. He then joined Apple in 1998, and was named CEO of the company on August 24, 2011 after late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs resigned from the position.

Note: Due to the potentially controversial nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

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8 months ago

"...advancing humanity". Haha. God bless America™. He works for a company that makes computers...


Yes, because technology has never helped to advance humanity. :rolleyes:
Rating: 53 Votes
8 months ago

First, you need to set up a working mobile phone network. I doubt there's any reception in the middle of the savanna.

And don't forget electricity for charging.


So water is not available yet the infrastructure to support use of a mobile phone is? Haha thanks for the laugh this morning.

Just curious, how are these people that have no water (and probably don't know where their next meal is going to come from) able to afford a mobile phone? And where do they to charge the phone when the battery dies. If they don't have water or food they most likely don't have electricity either.

It's entirely true that technology is not at the top of the list of human needs when it comes down to it. If you're starving, you don't much care if you have a mobile phone.

But it saddens me somewhat to read a number of responses that make the seriously flawed assumption that sub-Saharan Africa is this big mass of savannah with a bunch of children that have no water and food in it.

Yes, there have been, and continue to periodically be, humanitarian crises in Africa that result in people starving or dying form lack of water. But for the vast majority of the tens of millions of people who live in relative poverty in Africa now, the issue is considerably more complex than the stereotypical "starving kid on the TV commercial."

The reality is that, funny enough, a lot of people in Africa do have cell phones. They don't have electricity at their home, or running water, but they have a cheap mobile phone, because that's how you get in touch with somebody else. How do you charge it? You pay the guy in town who has a mobile charging business a few shillings to plug it in and charge it.

Or, more recently--and this is where the organization I work for has been involved--you buy a solar-charged LED lamp of some sort to replace the candle or kerosene lamp you previously used to light your house or shop, and it happens to have a little mobile charging port on it.

In many towns it has been, for quite some time, popular to buy a solar panel, a car battery, and a small TV so you can watch soccer on TV. Necessary? Of course not. But just because they're poor doesn't mean they don't want to watch sports.

See, the reality is that most people in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, etc, don't just sit around on the street waiting to starve. They have jobs, and children, and families. They make only the equivalent of a couple dollars a day in most cases, and many of them have been spending a substantial fraction of that on kerosene to burn in lamps so they can see to work at night, or so their kids can do their homework in hopes of getting a better education.

Giving those people the opportunity to buy--not giving them, but selling them--a comparatively high-tech solar panel hooked to a rechargeable battery and white LED lamp leapfrogs a couple of generations of technology, and bypasses the electric grid entirely. It is not in any way necessary, but it is currently enabling millions of people to improve their quality of life.

That's just an example. A MacBook Pro is a long way from a $20 LED lamp, but it's a simple example of how comparatively advanced technology can and does make a real quality of life difference for the very poor. More importantly, though, it's worth keeping in mind that the kid starving in the street on the commercial on late night TV is not really representative of the majority of the population of Africa--they are still very poor, but they're not in crisis.

(And by the way, I'm not just making this up based on conjecture or fantasy; the organization I work for sends people to these countries regularly for weeks at a time to spend time in rural villages doing surveys, in addition to large-scale national studies.)
Rating: 32 Votes
8 months ago

"...advancing humanity". Haha. God bless America™. He works for a company that makes computers...


are you serious?
Rating: 31 Votes
8 months ago
"...advancing humanity". Haha. God bless America™. He works for a company that makes computers...
Rating: 22 Votes
8 months ago

In the places still needing charity, no it hasn't. You think an African child dying from lack of water needs a MacBook Pro?

Is there a way we can donate to those suffering from logical fallacies in Japan?
Rating: 22 Votes
8 months ago

In the places still needing charity, no it hasn't. You think an African child dying from lack of water needs a MacBook Pro?


Of course not, they need water. And technology has helped there enormously, both directly in producing better pumps and in finding hidden reservoirs, but also in making people in he developed world aware of the problems and inciting them to help financially.

I understand that's not what you were trying to argue, and I agree that, notwithstanding the education programmes that exist based around iPads in some developing parts of the world, Apple technology does not tend to assist directly those who are starving or dying of thirst. But to argue in general terms that technology per se hasn't helped the developing world is wrong.
Rating: 20 Votes
8 months ago
I liked it better when Jobs, for the most part, didn't get involved in politics. Sorry Tim but I don't need to have compassion or provide equality to people who come to hew illegally, get government services but don't pay taxes, and bring crime and drugs with them. I'm all for reasonable legal immigration once a fence is built, we stop providing incentives for people to cross the border illegally and Mexico gets its house in order.

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In the places still needing charity, no it hasn't. You think an African child dying from lack of water needs a MacBook Pro?


As Bill Gates said last month:

“The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.”


http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/dacd1f84-41bf-11e3-b064-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2jOv8ZdDW
Rating: 19 Votes
8 months ago
Apple having equality for its employees is good, but it's also a bit like a university that has a cherished honor code. Neither is difficult to implement, neither has much influence outside the institution, and both are self-engrandizing. Of course a university can create an enclaved system without relativism and in which rules can be black and white. It's blindly conceited though, as no one can exist in this world with 100% purity or honor. The very money the school takes isn't snowy white. It's the same with Apple. Most of the people who work for Apple are not employed by Apple. So to say that Apple has equality for its employees isn't even saying much. They have good values in place that benefit people who are already extremely fortunate and in the highest echelons among the world. And just as the honor code example exists within an enclave, Apple cannot maintain this purity when it works with the outside world. It works in a cut-throat business world and works with brutal governments around the world. Yes, everything is fair and equal for Apple employees. That's not hard to do.

I'd be more interested if he didn't say something so predictable. Income inequality is a greater issue than non-discrimination policies are for wealthy engineers. It's not that you should wait to do the latter before fixing the former. It's that fixing the latter is easy, and already done at Apple. It should make Apple a more competitive company against its competitors.

I'm sure he has personal reasons for his convictions and I do for mine as well. I have every reason to believe I was fired as an Apple contractor because of a disability I have. Because I was a contractor and not employee, Apple did not have to pay minimum wage, did not pay its share of Social Security tax, I had to pay for my own training (which came from Apple), etc. Apple treated me in every respect as an employee, and it made damn sure that its customers were under the impression I was an employee. I would have lost my job to say otherwise. Apple could fire me without giving a stated reason. There is no law in my state that an employer must give a reason for termination, and Apple didn't give one.

So, how would an employee of Apple's ever even know if they were fired for being gay? I called every number I could find at Apple to try to find out why I was fired. And I finally reached the person who knew. I introduced myself and his reply was, "I am not at liberty to discuss that information." He hung up the phone before I could respond.

Apple is a company that does what it wants to do. If part of that is having a certain culture of equanimity within its corporate employees, then it does that. But Apple fights being beholden to the spirit of the law and to the law at all. You see this with its financial practices, including Steve Jobs backdating stock options or funneling its money through Ireland.

Again, it's not that I disagree with Tim Cook. It's that he thinks he's done something great when he hasn't, or that he at the least wants other people to think so.
Rating: 16 Votes
8 months ago

Yes, because technology has never helped to advance humanity. :rolleyes:

In the places still needing charity, no it hasn't. You think an African child dying from lack of water needs a MacBook Pro?
Rating: 16 Votes
8 months ago

I liked it better when Jobs, for the most part, didn't get involved in politics. Sorry Tim but I don't need to have compassion or provide equality to people who come to hew illegally, get government services but don't pay taxes, and bring crime and drugs with them. I'm all for reasonable legal immigration once a fence is built, we stop providing incentives for people to cross the border illegally and Mexico gets its house in order.[COLOR="#808080"]




Then, ask your government to fix their damn country first. If there are illegals in the USA, it is because a lot of people hire them.
It is the most hypocritical thing I have heard in a while!
Why do you think illegal immigration is not an issue here in Canada? it is much more difficult to find someone who will hire you without papers.
Fix you country first, and you won't even need a fence.
Bigotry and ignorance are closely related.
Rating: 13 Votes

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