“Stanford is near to my heart, not least because I live just a mile and a half from here,” Cook said. Stanford and Silicon Valley are woven together, he said, adding, “The past few decades have lifted us together. But today we gather at a moment that demands some reflection.”
Technology, he said, magnifies rather than changes who we are, for the better and the worse. In recent times, he said, too many people have come to believe that good intentions excuse harmful consequences.
“Crisis has tempered optimi *** . Consequences have challenged ideali *** . And reality has shaken blind faith,” he said. “Our problems – in technology, in politics, wherever – are human problems. From the Garden of Eden to today, it’s our humanity that got us into this mess, and it’s our humanity that’s going to have to get us out.”
“Graduates, at very least, learn from these mistakes. If you want to take credit, first learn to take responsibility,”
Now, a lot of you – the vast majority – won’t find yourselves in tech at all. That’s as it should be. We need your minds at work far and wide, because our challenges are great, and they can’t be solved by any single industry. No matter wh
He predicted that Stanford’s graduates will likely go on to create and build many things. As builders, he urged them to be cognizant of what impact their creations will have on the generations that follow and to match their ambition with a humility of purpose.
Builders, he said, come in many forms. He cited the gay men and women involved in the Stonewall Inn demonstrations, which started the gay rights movement 50 years ago. Cook, who is gay himself, said the courage and conviction of the demonstrators on that fateful day had a lasting impact on his life.
“Graduates, being a builder is about believing that you cannot possibly be the greatest cause on this Earth, because you aren’t built to last,” he said. “It’s about making peace with the fact that you won’t be there for the end of the story.”
“So what was true then is true now. 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,”
He encouraged graduates to refocus their energy on creating and building, reminding them that, when their times comes, they’ll never be fully ready. And that’s OK.