Beyond the Build


An Evening with Apple’s Tim Cook

Tim Cook leads one of the largest global corporations, with sales approaching $200 billion, but you’d never know it.

I had the opportunity to visit with Steve Jobs’ Apple successor recently at the Auburn University Lifetime Achievement Awards, and found him to be engaging, insightful and most of all, humble. 

Cook came from modest beginnings in rural Alabama and, at a young age, he saw inequality through firsthand experiences. After time spent at Auburn, Duke, IBM and Compaq, it was Apple’s dynamic founder and the company’s fundamental belief in human rights/ advancing humanity through its products that attracted Cook to join the ranks of the corps.

During the evening, Tim shared the lengths Apple engineers go to to make products accessible to everyone, including those who are blind, deaf  or have muscular disorders. He spoke of balancing the focus on ROI for their shareholders and a commitment to basic human rights, another kind of ROI. This stirs from their internal policies that dispel all forms of discrimination, even when the law does not. I thanked him for speaking out on these various topics when others might not be as brave as a corporate leader.

Beyond comments about Apple, I took away these thoughts from Tim that evening:

  • All discrimination comes from a fear of anyone different than the majority.
  • Aim to surprise and delight. 
  • Human rights are driven by the young, who are not married to the prejudices of the past. Push with all your might to influence others. Don’t do it because it’s economically sound–although it is–do it because it’s right and just.
  • Change depends on our individual acts each day. Commit and act. Be the “ripple of hope” Robert Kennedy spoke of.

We all have the opportunity to champion progress and be an army of one, whether it’s in our homes, our work, or in the political realm.

Image Credit: Fast Company

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.