Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning delivered the 2018 commencement address at his alma mater Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he graduated in 1988 from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and where he is a member of the university’s Board of Trustees.
The university-wide commencement ceremony celebrated the three graduating classes of that academic year—September 2017, December 2017, and May 2018—with graduates from all ten Duke schools invited to attend.
Citing his mentor and predecessor, Steve Jobs, Cook challenged students to “think different” and challenge the status quo, qualities also embodied by Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He also cited Apple’s commitment to the environment and privacy as examples of how the brand he’s honored to lead bucks the status quo.
From his speech:
The pace at which progress is possible has accelerated dramatically. Aided by technology, every individual has the tools, potential, and reach to build a better world. That makes this the best time in history to be alive. Whatever you choose to do with your life, wherever your passion takes you, I urge you to take the power you have been given and use it for good. Aspire to leave this world better than you found it.
I didn’t always see life as clearly as I do today. But I’ve learned that the greatest challenge of life is knowing when to break with conventional wisdom. Don’t just accept the world you inherit today. Don’t just accept the status quo. No big challenge has ever been solved, and no lasting improvement has ever been achieved, unless people dare to try something different. Dare to think different.
I was lucky to learn from someone who believed this deeply—someone who knew that changing the world starts with following a vision, not a path. He was my friend and mentor, Steve Jobs.
Steve’s vision was that great ideas come from a restless refusal to accept things as they are, and those principles still guide us at Apple today. We reject the notion that global warming is inevitable—that’s why we run Apple on 100 percent renewable energy. We reject the excuse that getting the most out of technology means trading away your right to privacy. So we choose a different path: collecting as little of your data as possible, and being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care.