Apple CEO Tim Cook Gives Remarkable Speech on Gay Rights, Racism

Notoriously private executive spoke of personal discrimination

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Tim Cook, Apple’s media-shy chief executive, made a rare public speech at the U.N. this week. Auburn University, Cook’s alma mater, posted his 13-minute talk on Saturday.

Cook made his comments after receiving an achievement award from the university. He talked of personally witnessing a cross burning during his youth, an event that “changed his life forever,” and went on to say, “Since these early days, I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority.”

Cook, 53, continued by describing the values he says he found in Apple and its founder Steve Jobs when he joined the company in the late 1990s. These include creating products accessible to the disabled and, later, backing national nondiscrimination legislation.

Cook went on to talk of gay rights, saying, “Now is the time to write these basic principles of human dignity into the book of law.” He also backed an immigration overhaul, adding of proposed reforms, “Do not do them because they are economically sound — although they are — do them because they are right and just.”

The statements are remarkable for the notoriously private Cook because they strongly imply personal experience with discrimination. In 2013, Out Magazine named Cook the most powerful LGBT person in the world.

352 comments
proctoofsaryrn
proctoofsaryrn

It would be hilarious if every time a gay celebrity came out 100 heterosexual celebrities somehow stole their 15 minutes. 

dhollings
dhollings

There's nothing in his speech that says he's gay or straight. He might just be a workaholic for all we know.

Tim Cook is a nerd, like me. He probably experienced the same type of discrimination I did growing up, and it doesn't require being gay. If you're different, you're discriminated against. What he's talking about is real harmful discrimination, against minorities, and he has a right to defend it without being called it.

It's his personal life, and he might be a polygamist for all we know.

chwolverton
chwolverton

I am a big fan of Apple products and I don't care if Cook is gay.  The only problem I have with Apple is that they have moved so much of their IT to low taxed countries in order to cheat on their taxes. 

larrybradley
larrybradley

Well, let's see how smart it is to insult the African-American community by once again comparing gay "rights" to racial equality (categorically not even close to being the same issue). Or how smart it is for any CEO to make political speeches in hopes of securing or keeping customers, especially when that customer group is an very small segment of the pc market, much less the Apple market. Is it just me, or is anyone else so sick of hearing about "gay rights" you could throw up?

lucky2bhere
lucky2bhere

Boy.


Not that I don't agree with the human rights and immigration issues, but tying Apple products to them is simply and transparently opportunistic! That was not the place nor the time to grandstand for rights *and* talk about the sanctity of a company that makes essentially entertainment products.


He's delusional, at best. Hopefully, not just sadly misinformed. And a rapacious scum-bag capitalist, at worst. None are good options.


Excuse me, but does *anyone* on earth need the products Apple - or any other manufacturer - makes? We might think so, but we have misplaced want for need a very long time ago. Are products that take tons of water, electricity, billions of gallons of fuel, scarce raw materials, poisoning landfills, and millions of hours of human toil on the same plane as human compassion?


You're kidding!


Reading through the comments, people have focused on whether he is gay, or if Muslims are bad people. Stay focused, children. This is the leader of a company that makes stuff. Stuff that's convenient, fun and that we like; but don't *need*. That stuff can't possibly be associated with high-minded thinking. And, is, in fact, just the opposite.


Beauty and accessibility are attributes we can all appreciate. But let's not confuse them - Tim - with the human imperatives of compassion, altruism, inclusion and kindness. All those "squishy" things are what has keep us alive. Not the iPhone.

MalcolmTucker
MalcolmTucker

Well, Apple would claim they’re a leader of some sort. However, by being a “leader”, Apple’s averaging 12-15 deaths annually.  This is often happening at Apple Factories or product use.


A few weeks ago, a 15-year old Apple Factory worker died from pneumonia. Employment of underage workers is black and white; and not about race or sexual preference.  It's ethics.


The culture of working people to die of pneumonia should indicate a serious lapse in HR and hiring process, as well as management.  It be great if no one died because of Apple, and if Apple didn't have a subsidary company that operates like a hedge fund.   But Tim would rather talk publicly about what's acceptable to him in a relationship.


To me, Tim will always be the guy that recommended placing nets outside of windows that Apple Factory workers jump out of. 

lynx04
lynx04

If you like what he says here then vote.  Vote in every election.  Your vote does count, and it makes a bigger impact in the more local offices.  The end of discrimination begins with me and you and radiates outward all the way to the top.  But it can only do that if we get the right people elected at every level.  Vote.  It works and it makes a difference.  Vote.  Just vote. 

Hudymae
Hudymae

I give Cook a lot of credit….he knows who he is, while these commenters think they know who he is. They know so much about Gays they must have done a study. It is so sad to me that men get their panties in such an uproar about someone else's sex life, act like they know what going on behind someone else's closed door because that's what they'd really like to do themselves but are afraid. 

Obfuscate
Obfuscate

Cook's 1st point about accessibility is one the classic OS vendors, like Apple, have little influence over. Websites are the single biggest funnel of delivering content to people, regardless of what that content is. I've personally made websites that were W3C compliant for accessibility but when you ask a web designer or "digital content" person, as they are now wanting to be called, few can tell you definitively that accessibility was anything more than some vague ideal on a whiteboard. It's sad that the feature rich Internet of today really boils down to what users see and therefore what new flashy thing designers can show a customer. Website accessibility is in the hands of these designers whether a browser maker like Apple includes features for accessibility or not. I'd like to see a designer say "No" to client who refused to include hours needed for creating and testing that ensured the website could reach a potential customer who was blind. Quite honestly, I've helped folks with different abilities and realized that the only reason I was helping them was because the world of the fully "abled" is quite content at being difficult ... because its easier for the rest of us.


It is a relief to hear Cook's other points include sexual orientation and identity because it's bringing some heft into the debate. The most senior executive of IT at Bank of America made similar remarks just before NC banned gay marriage but it didn't have the desired affect. Obviously that begs the rhetorical question of actions over words because every C class officer of every US corporation is parroting the same thing, albeit with less specificity. Nobody is coming out as racist or sexist or "gayist". Yet the tech industry itself has demographics that don't bode well for acting on rhetoric. In tech, I've worked alongside a ton of white males and the biggest chunk of minorities are Asian, whether naturalized or green card; so Chinese and Indian -- but not black or Latino. Women are a severe minority in tech, regardless of origin. Remember too that Bill Gates supported overhauling the immigration and naturalization laws several years back but everyone agreed he was seeking to blow the cap so Microsoft could hire more Asian imports, not fight our county's racial history (blacks) or our current demographic shift (Latinos). Perhaps Cook's personal experience means his simple words are grounded in sincere equality that exists with Apple's campus but history has shown me that corporate words are usually mired in motive or simply impotent when scaled out to the rest of society. Would iPhone salesmen walk away from signing contracts with the LA PD? or the US Congress? to let RIM keep dishing out Blackberrys?? I doubt these words will have any impact on making even a profitable company risk its revenue stream over ethics.

Alksdu
Alksdu

He tries to pretend to be Steve Jobs. Talk like him, dress like him. But these are all on the outside, he is missing what's on the inside.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

This guy was a bad choice to replace Steve Jobs.

InspireMN
InspireMN

@ChikuMisra we have to observe the efforts to bring people together regardless of religion, sex, and color. People deserve to live without fear of harm. Oppressing people has got the world no where.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

I personally couldn't care less how others live. I'm just really sick of the media obsession with all things gay. It is sickening. But then again, the media are mostly a bunch of morons focused on the superficial and stupid things in life.......what appeals to the lower life forms among us........violence, sex, that stupid Middle East which they will never tire of. After seeing the media collectively wet its pants over some idiotic Mideast peace treaty, probably the 27th one, I quit tv in the 1990s and quit news and all media except an fb blog in June and perhaps the occasional worthless time musing here, but it has been good to get away from the media and its focus on negativity and whatever appeals to the lowest common denominator.

9/11 was a terrible thing, but that doesn't mean I need to hear about it everyday for the rest of my life. In fact, I don't need to hear about it even one more time. Common sense: if you meddle in the affairs of other nations, expect blowback. I realize the media are based in DC and NYC mostly or headquartered and lost many friends, and that is regrettable. It should never have happened, but that's a bad road to go down. Cuz lots of things shouldn't happen. Like meddling in the affairs of the Mideast illegally and taking Israel's side on everything under the sun as its favored lapdog.

I frankly detest the Muslim culture. I agree with franklin graham, a wicked and evil religion. But u really can't change these people. I've lived with these types for decades, they are hopeless. There just happens to be an undercurrent of evil and hate that runs through the Muslim and Asian cultures. So please remember my objectivity before just sticking me on the watch list willy nilly for my weird name and unwillingness to lick uncle SAMs boot.

pumpum53
pumpum53

Our gays got tired of posting? I am back ready to discuss it.

Alksdu
Alksdu

We should deport all illegal immigrates who came to this country for the welfare, but encourage educated immigrants who can bring skills into this country. Make this a better nation. USA! USA! USA!

pumpum53
pumpum53

Let's write to apple and report how out of context this comment was.

mrstrat
mrstrat

It's been rumored that he was a qu33r. At least he seems to be a qu33r sympathizer. Sad...I really like Apple products.

Alksdu
Alksdu

Is he gay? I didn't know that.

pumpum53
pumpum53

If Tim Cook brought the immigration as a racism issue, that is a dishonest talk. Allowing an uncontrolled number of people regardless where you come from to walk into any country is simply not practical in a world overpopulated. I wanted to immigrate and that is why I worked my tail off getting a degree and profession in demand.

As far as his gay rights, what else he wants?

Alksdu
Alksdu

Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-gay. However, when I see Tim Cook, I feel a strong urge to punch him in the face.

MaxxBot
MaxxBot

@larrybradley  Hahahahaha I'm sure Tim Cook is shaking in his boots over the prospects of losing the business of some dumb bigot like you. 

AmyWheeler
AmyWheeler

Well thought out, but no doubt posted using said devices.

kaiserbecks
kaiserbecks

@MalcolmTucker Those aren't "apple factories". Even if you don't own a product designed by Apple, it is very likely that you own something that was built at that factory. Foxconn assembles products for Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Vizio, Toshiba, Google, Blackberry, Dell etc etc etc

IanMac
IanMac

@Obfuscate An excellent thoughtful well-reasoned essay which gives lie to your title. You're wasted here; check out the other "comments" to savour the reality of internet communication. Do you have a blog? 

Hudymae
Hudymae

@Alksdu Sounds like you are as well missing something on the inside, I can tell you are jealous just by your comment.

lucky2bhere
lucky2bhere

@ChikuMisra You, my friend, are conflicted.


You say you couldn't care less, then you tell us you detest a religion. And that gay adoption is evil. 


You assume what you see all around you is a mistake. None of it is. Regardless of what your beliefs are - in an almighty, in planetary positions, in rocks, in yourself - everything operates the way it does because that's the way it's supposed to be.


Except for maybe the Greek gods, not many deities are said to be fallible. They know all, they created all. If they were prone to mistakes of the proportions you believe are causing your Western behind all this grief, all of those gods would have started over a very long time ago.


There *must* be push and pull, good and bad. It is what moves all of us - together - forward. Whiners like you included. Deal with it. There is not one religion or personal preference that makes any one person bad. But certainly the worst is someone who believes there is only one way: their way. Nobody has all the answers, and I'd bet my last dollar we aren't even close to understanding the hows and whys of all of this we experience each day. And we never will.


Despite your claim of living "with these types for decades", I seriously doubt if you actually knew any of them. Spent time with them and their families. It would pay for you to get out of the house sometime. Maybe move out of your mom's basement. See the world, or maybe even the town next door. Meet some of these awful people you are so disgusted with. You'll see it's not what you think it is. And that we, collectively, are by nature, more good than bad. Otherwise we wouldn't be so lucky to have this conversation.


The best thing you and the other insulated humans here could do is step way back from your own four, self-inflicted walls and look at where you fit in the enormous scheme of things. Westerners are not the center of the Universe, nor are they the majority. Christianity - and literally every other structured religion - was created to help people get through the day without driving themselves crazy with the big questions. Period. The bad influences co-opted all of them for individual gain, understanding the pain and fear most people carry around with them from the beginning to the end. It's up to all of us to see through the scam and live good lives.


We all know what to do. Don't be afraid to live.

pumpum53
pumpum53

@ChikuMisra I imagine is just part of the agenda being pushed by people who control the media. These are likely the same making a huge alarm when one shooting happens, ignoring the fact that thousands of children get killed daily via other types of violence other than firearms.


I posted earlier that I could care less if this gentleman Tim Cook is a gay or not. Whatever exotic sexual taste he developed, that his problem. In the US, the norm here is that people do not even talk about personal sexual or personal intimacy at work. Therefore one can be successful at work - and Tim is the living proof of that - being gay or otherwise. 

Earlier one of the gay supporters posted one of the most childish arguments ever; he implied he is tired of seeing hetero folks posting pictures of spouses, etc as a way of showing we are "straight" people. Well, my answer is that we are the majority, the ones in sync with our physical genders. We set the standards. 

If people developed a hormonal,  psychological anomaly or in the case of some a personal choice to go against their original sex gender, so please accept the fact you are different. Folks, those of us who understand and see the value of families do not believe our boys and girls can reverse roles and still pass on our genes. I am proud my family has been raising good citizens, professionals and contributors to the society passing genes and keeping family traditions for 300 years now. It is lot of work to keep this going. Yes, if God forbidden one of my kids ever turn to be a gay, so I will have to deal with that and accept. But I will not be celebrating that anomaly.  


Everyone deserves respect, no violence, no shunning of any kind. At least in the US and in many Western civilizations, last time I checked gays already have received lot of tolerance and respect from the society. 
Peace.

DPDPDP
DPDPDP

@mrstrat Get old and die please (or sooner), so the rest of us can have a civilized world to live in.

lucky2bhere
lucky2bhere

@AmyWheeler Although I don't own any Apple equipment, I am still - of course - using similar technology to engage here.


But, that's not at all the point. Cook has blatantly crossed the line separating his products from social issues. And, one doesn't have to dig too deeply to blast gaping holes into his presentation. He is taking a very high moral stand here - which would have been fine if he never mentioned Apple - that is at odds with how his very own company actually works.


You can't be taken seriously as a CEO if you hold both sides of an argument. He is just another opportunist, not someone who should be held up high for their moral position.


In addition, Matt Vella is clearly not doing his job, either.


Let's see if Tim reads this, too, like all the emails he gets.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Sorry you think I'm part of an agenda. I only speak for me. But I think you're intelligent with good insight and understanding of the problem.

These gays just don't get it. Like u said, people don't talk of such things publicly. Except the gays because they are obsessed with sex. I can't see any other reason. My advice to them nationally........please just shut up and quietly live your life with dignity, in ANY manner u choose. Please believe me when I say most straights couldn't care less what y'all do or when or how u do it........we just want you to shut up about it. We are SICK of hearing about it.

I also happen to believe gay adoption is fundamentally evil. Society has a responsibility to protect children, not subject them to perverted, unnatural lifestyle.

If the gay thing was normal, there would be no human race. Please think on it for a bit.

pumpum53
pumpum53

Michael, what is a "closet case". I have no idea.

Alksdu
Alksdu

@BLaw @mrstrat It's big money. It would be stupid for a company to say that they are against gay rights. They would lose a lot of business and targeted by gay right groups. Look at Chick-fil-a. Most companies don't care and they don't have a choice. This is exactly what I was talking about. Tim Cook is just conducting a marketing campaign. 

pumpum53
pumpum53

But then if the regular folks die, who would be nurturing families and how functional could be?

pumpum53
pumpum53

Iraq. I came as an immigrant like everybody else. Proud US citizen.

Hudymae
Hudymae

@ChikuMisra You must be gay since you know so much about them…..you can even give them you good advise, since you have been there. 

Alksdu
Alksdu

@pumpum53 It means he lives in a closet and he hides his shame by calling everyone a bigot on the internet

pumpum53
pumpum53

I referred to his apparent standard sexual orientation