Skip Nav

Tim Cook's Graduation Speech at George Washington University

Tim Cook's Inspiring Speech Isn't Just For Graduates

Change the world . . . and recycle your Android phone. Those were the key messages from Tim Cook's commencement speech at George Washington University's graduation on Sunday. The Apple CEO's words echoed similar sentiments from past graduation speeches, except he traced his own childhood in the South, working for Apple, and learning from Steve Jobs.

The speech began with Cook's own personal values, which came from growing up in the South, post-segregation riots. Cook won an essay contest that led him to meet the governor of Alabama at the time, George Wallace, who was a segregationist advocate. He described how it felt like a "betrayal to [his] beliefs" and not an honor. Cook also touched upon how he came to work at Apple, after Jobs approached him and told him about how his "vision for Apple was a company to turn powerful technology into tools that were easy to use. Tools that would help people realize their dreams and make the world better." Cook knew then it was the right choice for him and said, "It has been 17 years and I have never once looked back."

And, like most graduation speeches, Cook stopped reflecting on his own personal journey to implore graduates to make a difference. "Find your North Star and let it guide you in life, and work, and in your life's work," he said. He asked them to ignore the critics and cynics and to fully immerse themselves in the world and make it a better place. "The sidelines are not where you want to live your life," he said. As he closed out his 20-minute speech, he left the graduates with one last plea: "No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy, your passion, your impatience with progress."


After finishing his speech, Cook took a photo of the graduates with his iPhone. This wasn't the only iPhone-related reference. At the beginning of his speech, he poked fun at Android. "So those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode," he said. "If you don't have an iPhone, just pass it to the center aisle. Apple has a world-class recycling program." Watch the video above to hear the full remarks, and then read his other notable quotes throughout the years.

Latest Technology & Gadgets