Tim Cook has just completed his eighth year at the helm of Apple, Inc. and received a GLSEN Champion Award alongside actress Octavia Spencer.
It’s also been five years this week since Cook decided to become the first out gay Fortune 500 CEO by writing a Bloomberg essay. In his first ever interview with a Spanish publication from the United States — People en Español — Cook reflected on this decision, in addition to heavily pushing a message of inclusion and equality for marginalized identities.
Cook told People en Español Editor-in-Chief Armando Correa that he considers his sexuality a holy ‘gift’, not a ‘limitation’.
“Gay is not a limitation. It’s a characteristic that I hope they view, like I do, that it’s God’s greatest gift. That’s what I hope: to get that message out there to all the young kids struggling with their identity who aren’t certain that they’re resilient enough or good enough, or [they] are made to feel inferior in some way, or worse, are ostracized or whatever. Life doesn’t need to be like this.”
Cook reflected on his decision to publicly announce his orientation: “I was getting notes from kids who were struggling with their sexual orientation. They were depressed. Some said [they] had suicidal thoughts. Some had been banished by their own parents and family. It weighed on me in terms of what I could do.”
Cook read one such letter at the GLSEN Respect Awards ceremony, this one from a 67-year old closeted man in 2014, who he went on to dedicate the award to.
“It probably took a year between getting the words exactly like I wanted and picking the right time for the company, because I didn’t want it to be a distraction and so forth,” Cook said, also describing how he reached out to gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper for his opinion. “I have not regretted it for one minute. Not at all.”
I'm grateful to @GLSEN and @EByard for their years of advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ youth. I can’t help but imagine how much it would have meant to me, growing up in a small town, to know that there were leaders out there like Eliza, and organizations like GLSEN, who care so much. https://t.co/NBfkCyYqRb
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) October 26, 2019
Having been with Apple since 1998, the now-CEO will turn 59 this Friday. Cook recognizes his sexuality has shown him how to acknowledge the struggles of marginalized people — “At least for me, I can only speak for myself, it gives me a level of empathy that I think is probably much higher than average because being gay or trans, you’re a minority.”
Cook does acknowledge he is part of the majority and uses his position to advocate for others. He recently signed a letter from Apple to the Supreme Court in support of DREAMers (or DACA recipients) ahead of a hearing before the court next month that could affect the status of present and future DREAMers.
“I think it’s a travesty that we’re allowing, as a society, this cloud to hang over their heads for any period of time, but even more so for the period of time we have,” Cook said in his interview, alluding to the environmental crisis his company is currently trying to combat. Cook boasts that for the last two years, Apple has run on 100% renewable energy.
“They’re every bit as American as I am. When I speak to them, I’m speaking to Americans from my point of view. They’re American in every respect except they don’t have the paper,” says Cook. “So let’s give them the paper and do the right thing.”
Read the entire interview, “Tim Cook: The Power of Diversity” on People en Español now.