Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook accepted an achievement award from his alma mater, Auburn University, and gave an inspiring speech on racism and gay rights.
The usually elusive Apple chief executive made a rare public speech about personally witnessing a cross on fire when he was young. Mr Cook said the incident has "changed his life forever." He said he has experienced various types of discrimination. He believes people are afraid to accept others who were different from the rest of society.
The 53-year-old successor to former CEO and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs described the values he had discovered in Apple and his mentor when he joined the company in the late 1990s. Mr Cook said Apple was committed to creating products that people with disabilities can access. Apple also went on to support nondiscrimination legislation.
Tim Cook has urged U.S. Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act to protect employees from discrimination when applying for jobs. Mr Cook wrote his opinion in the Wall Street Journal that Apple Inc is a company that welcomes employees regardless of their race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation.
He also said the nondiscrimination policy "is a matter of basic human dignity." Diversity drives the creativity of businesses. According to Mr Cook, he discovered that people are confident and comfortable in the workplace if they are valued for their individuality.
Apple Inc has an anti-discrimination policy which extends further legal protection to its employees. The company does not tolerate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.
In his speech, Mr Cook talked about gay rights and said it is time to include them in the basic principles of human dignity. His speech proved to be remarkably inspiring because of his personal experiences with discrimination. He was named the most powerful LGBT person in the world in Out Magazine.
Mr Cook revealed in his speech that he has kept photos of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in his office to remind him of his own principles. He also paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela for the anti-apartheid hero's fight against discrimination.