Apple CEO points to problems in Silicon Valley, urges Stanford grads to take responsibility

Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed graduates at Stanford Stadium today (June 16). Photo by L.A. Cicero of the Stanford News Service.
Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed graduates at Stanford Stadium today (June 16). Photo by L.A. Cicero of the Stanford News Service.

By the Daily Post staff

Apple CEO Tim Cook told Stanford graduates today (June 16) that Silicon Valley companies need to take responsibility for the problems they’ve created in society.

He also pointed out that Silicon Valley and Stanford are forever intertwined.

“Stanford is near to my heart, not least because I live just a mile and a half from here,” said Cook, who lives near downtown Palo Alto.

But he acknowledged things have gone wrong in the tech industry.

“Crisis has tempered optimism. Consequences have challenged idealism. And reality has shaken blind faith.”

Without naming names, Cook took note of problems at rival tech companies.

“We see it every day now, with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech. Fake news poisoning our national conversation. The false promise of miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood. Too many seem to think that good intentions excuse away harmful outcomes,” Cook said.

He lamented that the industry is becoming known for “the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility.”

“If you’ve built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos,” Cook said. “Taking responsibility means having the courage to think things through,” he said.

Cook also offered some personal thoughts about taking over the job Steve Jobs once held. Jobs famously addressed Stanford graduates 14 years ago, telling them to “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

“When Steve got sick, I had hardwired my thinking to the belief that he would get better. I not only thought he would hold on, I was convinced, down to my core, that he’d still be guiding Apple long after I, myself, was gone,” Cook told the graduates.

But when Jobs died, Cook said he felt the loneliest he had ever felt in his life.

“When the dust settled, all I knew was that I was going to have to be the best version of myself that I could be,” Cook said. “I knew that if you got out of bed every morning and set your watch by what other people expect or demand, it’ll drive you crazy.”

Then Cook paraphrased a line from Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech.

“Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life. Don’t try to emulate the people who came before you to the exclusion of everything else, contorting into a shape that doesn’t fit,” Cook said.

Undergraduates marched into Stanford Stadium dressed as mermaids, Pokemon, Pac-Man, Disney and comic book characters, In-N-Out employees and cows holding signs that said “please don’t make us mooooooove” and “udderly sad to be leaving the Farm.”

Stanford handed out 1,792 bachelor’s degrees, 2,389 master’s degrees and 1,038 doctoral degrees.