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  • Ladies and gentlemen,

  • our commencement speaker, Dr. Tim Cook.

  • [cheers and applause]

  • Thank you. Thank you.

  • Hello, GW.

  • [cheers and applause]

  • Thank you very much, President Knapp, for that kind intro.

  • Alex, trustees, faculty and deans of the university,

  • my fellow honorees,

  • and especially you, the class of 2015. Yes.

  • [applause]

  • Congratulations to you, to your family,

  • to your friends that are attending today's ceremony.

  • You made it.

  • It's a privilege, a rare privilege of a lifetime

  • to be with you today.

  • And I can't thank you enough for making me an honorary Colonel.

  • [applause]

  • Before I begin today,

  • they asked me to make a standard announcement.

  • You've heard this before,

  • about silencing your phones.

  • [laughter]

  • So those of you with an iPhone,

  • just place it in silent mode.

  • If you don't have an iPhone,

  • please pass it to the center aisle.

  • [laughter]

  • Apple has a world-class recycling program.

  • [laughter]

  • [applause]

  • You know, this is really an amazing place.

  • And for a lot of you, I'm sure that being here in Washington,

  • the very center of our democracy,

  • was a big draw when you were choosing which school to go to.

  • This place has a powerful pull.

  • It was here that Dr. Martin Luther King

  • challenged Americans to make real

  • the promises of democracy,

  • to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

  • And it was here

  • that President Ronald Reagan called on us

  • to believe in ourselves

  • and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds.

  • I'd like to start this morning

  • by telling you about my first visit here.

  • In the summer of 1977, yes, I'm a little old,

  • I was 16 years old and living in Robertsdale,

  • the small town in southern Alabama that I grew up in.

  • At the end of my junior year of high school,

  • I'd won an essay contest

  • sponsored by the National Rural Electric Association.

  • I can't remember what that essay was about.

  • But what I do remember very clearly

  • is writing it by hand, draft after draft after draft.

  • Typewriters were very expensive,

  • and my family could not afford one.

  • I was one of two kids from Baldwin County

  • that was chosen to go to Washington

  • along with hundreds of other kids across the country.

  • Before we left, the Alabama delegation

  • took a trip to our state capitol in Montgomery

  • for a meeting with the governor.

  • The governor's name was George C. Wallace,

  • the same George Wallace who, in 1963,

  • stood in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama

  • to block African-Americans from enrolling.

  • Wallace embraced the evils of segregation.

  • He pitted whites against blacks, the South against the North,

  • the working class against the so-called elites.

  • Meeting my governor was not an honor for me.

  • My heroes in life were Dr. Martin Luther King

  • and Robert F. Kennedy, who had fought

  • against the very things that Wallace stood for.

  • Keep in mind that I grew up or when I grew up,

  • I grew up in a place where King and Kennedy

  • were not exactly held in high esteem.

  • When I was a kid, the South was still coming to grips

  • with its history.

  • My textbooks even said

  • the Civil War was about states' rights.

  • They barely mentioned slavery.

  • So I had to figure out for myself

  • what was right and true.

  • It was a search.

  • It was a process.

  • It drew on the moral sense that I'd learned from my parents

  • and in church and in my own heart

  • and led me on my own journey of discovery.

  • I found books in the public library

  • that they probably didn't know they had.

  • They all pointed to the fact that Wallace was wrong,

  • that injustices like segregation have no place in our world,

  • that equality is a right.

  • [cheers and applause]

  • As I said, I was only 16 when I met Governor Wallace,

  • so I shook his hand as we were expected to do.

  • But shaking his hand felt like a betrayal of my own beliefs.

  • It felt wrong,

  • like I was selling a piece of my soul.

  • From Montgomery, we flew to Washington.

  • It was the first time I had ever been on an airplane.

  • In fact, it was the first time

  • I'd ever traveled out of the South.

  • On June 15, 1977, I was one of 900 high schoolers

  • greeted by the new president, President Jimmy Carter,

  • on the south lawn of the White House,

  • right there on the other side of the ellipse.

  • I was one of the lucky ones who got to shake his hand.

  • Carter saw "Baldwin County" on my name tag that day

  • and stopped to speak with me.

  • He wanted to know how people were doing

  • after the rash of storms that had struck Alabama that year.

  • Carter was kind and compassionate.

  • He held the most powerful job in the world,

  • but he had not sacrificed any of his humanity.

  • I felt proud that he was president,

  • and I felt proud that he was from the South.

  • In the space of a week, I had come face-to-face

  • with two men who had guaranteed themselves a place in history

  • They came from the same region.

  • They were from the same political party.

  • They were both governors of adjoining states.

  • But they looked at the world in very different ways.

  • It was clear to me

  • that one was right and one was wrong.

  • Wallace had built his political career

  • by exploiting divisions between us.

  • Carter's message, on the other hand,

  • was that we are all bond together, every one of us.

  • Each had made a journey

  • that led them to the values that they lived by,

  • but it wasn't just about their experiences

  • or their circumstances;

  • it had to come from within.

  • My own journey in life was just beginning.

  • I hadn't even applied for college yet at that point.

  • For you graduates, the process of discovering yourself,

  • of inventing yourself, of reinventing yourself

  • is about to begin in earnest.

  • It's about finding your values and committing to live by them.

  • You have to find your North Star.

  • And that means choices.

  • Some are easy.

  • Some are hard.

  • And some will make you question everything.

  • 20 years after my visit to Washington,

  • I met someone who made me question everything,

  • who upended all of my assumptions

  • in the very best way.

  • That was Steve Jobs.

  • [cheers and applause]

  • Steve had built a successful company,

  • he had been sent away,

  • and he returned 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 heights

  • greater than anyone could ever imagine.

  • Anyone, that is, except for Steve.

  • Most people have forgotten, but in 1997 and early 1998,

  • Apple had been adrift for years, rudderless.

  • But Steve thought Apple could be great again,

  • and he wanted to know if I'd like to help.

  • His vision for Apple

  • was a company that turned powerful technology

  • into tools that were easy to use,

  • tools that would help people realize their dreams

  • and change the world for the better.

  • I had studied to be an engineer and earned an MBA.

  • I was trained to be pragmatic, a problem solver.

  • Now I found myself sitting before and listening to this very animated 40-something guy

  • with visions of changing the world.

  • It was not what I had expected.

  • You see, when it came to my career,

  • in 1998, I was also adrift, rudderless.

  • I knew who I was in my personal life,

  • and I kept my eye on my North Star,

  • my responsibility to do good for someone else other than myself

  • But at work, well,

  • I always figured that work was work.

  • Values had their place,

  • and, yes, there were things that I wanted to change about the world

  • but I thought I had to do that on my own time,

  • not in the office.

  • Steve didn't see it that way.

  • He was an idealist.

  • And in that way, he reminded me of how I felt as a teenager.

  • In that first meeting, he convinced me

  • that if we worked hard and made great products,

  • we, too, could help change the world.

  • And to my surprise, I was hooked.

  • I took the job and changed my life.

  • It's been 17 years, and I have never once looked back.

  • At Apple, we believe the work should be more

  • than just about improving your own self.

  • It's about improving the lives of others as well.

  • Our products do amazing things.

  • And just as Steve envisioned,

  • they empower people all over the world--

  • people who are blind

  • and need information read to them because they can't see the screen,

  • people for whom technology is a lifeline

  • because they're isolated by distance or disability,

  • people who witness injustice and want to expose it,

  • and now they can,

  • because they have a camera in their pocket all the time.

  • [cheers and applause]

  • Our commitment goes beyond the products themselves

  • to how they're made,

  • to our impact on the environment,

  • to the role we play in demanding and promoting equality

  • and in improving education.

  • 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.

  • And work takes on new meaning

  • when you feel you're pointed in the right direction.

  • Otherwise, it's 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 science and in the arts,

  • in journalism and in academia.

  • There's honor in all of these pursuits.

  • And there's opportunity to do work

  • that's infused with moral purpose.

  • You don't have to choose

  • between doing good and doing well.

  • It's 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 and good and just.

  • [applause]

  • So find your North Star.

  • Let it guide you in life and work

  • and in your life's work.

  • Now, I suspect

  • some of you aren't buying this.

  • [laughter]

  • I won't take it personally.

  • It's no surprise that people are skeptical,

  • especially here in Washington,

  • where these days, you've got plenty of reason to be.

  • And a healthy amount of skepticism is fine,