Cook channeled Dr. Martin Luther King in his speech, reiterating to graduates that it is important to remain true to your values. Your values, according to Cook, are your 'north star' that can help guide you in life. Tim Cook also talked about Steve Jobs in the speech, noting how his vision changed the world.
Cook started his speech with an anecdote on how he met Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1977. Wallace opposed de-segreation and pitted whites against blacks in the state of Alabama.
"Meeting the governor was not an honor for me. It felt like a betrayal of my own beliefs -- it felt wrong, like I was selling a piece of my soul. My heroes in life were Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy -- both who fought against the values that Wallace stood for," Cook said. I had to figure out for myself was right and true -- it was a search, it was a process."
After meeting Wallace, Cook met President Jimmy Carter who had very different values than Wallace. "Carter was kind and compassionate, and held the most powerful job in the world. Between the two It was clear to me that one was right and one was wrong." Cook's anecdote not only served as message for justice, but also the importance of finding your values.
"You have to find your north star, and that means choice. Some are easy, some are hard, and some -- will make you question everything, " Cook explained. "Twenty years after my visit to Washington, I met someone who made me question everything -- in the very best way, and that was Steve Jobs."
Cook noted how Steve returned to Apple to find it 'in ruins.' "He didn't know it at the time, but he was about to dedicate the rest of his life to rescuing it and leading it to greater heights than anyone could image." While Steve asked Tim Cook to come and work at Apple, Cook explained that during this time, he was 'adrift and rudderless,' and while he had found and retained certain values, he always saw work as a separate aspect of life.
Cook went on to talk about values and the workplace: "Values had their place, and yes there were things I wanted to do to change the world, but I always thought I would do that on my own time -- not in the office. Steve didn't see it that way. He was an idealist. He convinced me that if we worked hard and made great products, we too can change then world. To my surprise, I was hooked. I took the job and changed my life. It's been seventeen years and I have never once looked back."
He continued to discuss how Apple believes that work is more than just self-improvement and there should be a focus on improving the lives of others as well. "Our products do amazing things, and just as Steve envisioned, they empower people around the world." Cook then urged the graduates to take note on the importance of their values.
"We believe that a company that has values and acts on them, can really change the world -- and an individual can too. That can be you. That must be you. Graduates, your values matter -- they are your north star. Work takes on new meaning when you feel you're pointed in the right direction, otherwise its just a job, and life is too short for that. We need the best and brightest of your generation to lead in government and in business, in the sciences and in the arts, in journalism and in academia. There's opportunities to do work thats infused with moral purpose. You don't have to choose between doing good and doing well -- its a false choice today more than ever. Your challenge is to find work that pays the rent, puts food on the table, and lets you do what is right, good and just. Find your north star and let it guide you in life, work, and in life's work."
Cook closed with one simple message. "Great progress is possible in whatever line of work you choose. There will always be cynics and critics on the sidelines tearing people down. And just as harmful are those people with good intentions who make no contribution at all. The sidelines are not where you want to live your life. The world needs you in the arena."
Before leaving the podium, Cook took out his iPhone 6 and took a picture of the crowd.
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