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.