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Tim Cook: 'We don't build monuments to trolls, and we're not going to start now'

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, on Saturday, challenged the students of Tulane University's graduating class of 2019 to think outside of themselves and challenge the status quo to improve their world.

Cook, who gave the Louisiana university's commencement speech from the stage of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, implored the students to take action against issues including climate change, immigration, criminal justice reform, and economic inequality — and not to be derailed by the country's current, acrimonious political climate.

"When we talk about climate change or any issue with human cost, I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose and find the real true empathy that comes from something shared," Cook said.

"When you do that, the political noise dies down and you can feel your feet firmly planted on solid ground. After all, we don't build monuments to trolls, and we're not going to start now."

Looking outside of your own worldview

"In a world where we obsessively document our own lives, most of us don't pay nearly enough attention to what we owe one another," Cook said. "It's about recognizing that human civilization began when we realized that we could do more together.”

The Apple CEO, who has been an outspoken critic of social networks like Facebook (FB) and their data collection policies, told the audience to push back against the algorithms that create echo chambers reinforcing their established worldviews.

Cook explained that in some ways his generation failed the current crop of graduates by focusing too much on fighting and tearing each other down rather than trying to address the day's biggest issues.

In particular, Cook pointed to the impact of climate change and how it is causing more powerfully devastating storms with greater frequency, evoking the still-raw memory of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, during which survivors huddled within the same arena from which the CEO spoke.

"This problem doesn't get any easier based on whose side wins or loses an election," Cook said. "It's about who has won life's lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue, and who stands to lose everything."

Cook also invoked President Franklin Roosevelt's 1932 speech at Oglethorpe University in Georgia when he, then governor of New York, called for then college graduates to think of new ways to rebuild the country in the midst of the Great Depression. The Apple chief said that such a way of thinking is needed at this point to ensure a better future for the country and world.

"Call upon your grit. Try something. You may succeed, you may fail, but make it your life's work to remake the world," Cook said.

Last year, Cook served as the commencement speaker for his alma mater, Duke University. During his address, Cook, who graduated from the school’s Fuqua School of Business, discussed the importance of privacy in technology, as well as addressing today's societal and political challenges.

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