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

keysofanxiety Avatar
91 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:
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Makosuke Avatar
91 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.)
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
impulse462 Avatar
91 months ago

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


are you serious?
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
.Andy Avatar
91 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?
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MrSmith Avatar
91 months ago
"...advancing humanity". Haha. God bless America™. He works for a company that makes computers...
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Poisednoise Avatar
91 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.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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