- Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed the impact the Stonewall Inn rioters had on him, saying he would “never stop being grateful for what they had the courage to build.”
- Cook came out as gay in 2014 and has been a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community ever since.
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When Apple CEO Tim Cook gave Stanford’s 2019 commencement speech on Sunday, he encouraged graduates to be builders: to create “something monumental” that would be remembered long after they’re gone.
The patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and national landmark that’s become synonymous with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights movement, did just that when they stood up to police 50 years ago, Cook said.
“When the door was busted open by police, it was not the knock of opportunity or the call of destiny,” he said. “It was just another instance of the world telling them that they ought to feel worthless for being different. But the group gathered there felt something strengthen in them, a conviction that they deserved something better than the shadows and better than oblivion. And if it wasn’t going to be given then they were going to have to build it themselves.”
During his commencement speech on Sunday, Cook said he was eight years old when the riots at Stonewall happened. “There were no news alerts, no way for photos to go viral, no mechanism for a kid on the Gulf Coast to hear these unlikely heroes tell their stories,” he said.
“Though I can tell you that the slurs and the hatred were the same,” he continued. “What I would not know for a long time was what I owed to a group of people I never knew in a place I’d never been. Yet I will never stop being grateful for what they had the courage to build.”
Cook came out as gay in 2014 in an editorial published on Bloomberg, a move that he said was worth sacrificing some of his personal privacy. “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy,” he wrote.
The Apple CEO has vocally advocated for equal rights in the LGBTQ community. Most recently, he published his support for the Equality Act on Twitter, a bill recently passed in the House (awaiting a vote in the Senate) that prohibits discrimination against the LGBTQ community when it comes to employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas.
Watch Cook’s commencement speech below.
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