Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater, Auburn University, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about witnessing discrimination first-hand as a youth to frame his - and Apple's focus on human rights, according to AllThingsD.
Cook focused much of his speech to advocate for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community and for immigration reform.
As a child growing up in Alabama, Tim Cook witnessed cross-burning at the home a family near his. Cook said that image "permanently imprinted" on him as a "symbol of ignorance, of hatred, and a fear of anyone different than the majority."
Cook turned to explain how an emphasis on human dignity guides day to day business at Apple. He described a recent email he received from a mother of a non-verbal autistic child who, for the first time in his life, "found his voice" thanks to the iPad.
"We design our products so they surprise and delight everyone who uses them," said Cook. "And we never, never ever analyze the return on investment. We do it because it is just and right. And that is what human dignity requires, and it is a part of Apple that I am especially proud of."
That philosophy carries forth to how Apple works with its suppliers, and has also guided Apple to support pending legislation - currently stalled in the United States Congress - called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of of sexual orientation or gender identity - a long-standy policy of Apple already which Cook would like to see made part of federal law.
"It all comes down to human dignity," said Cook.