July 23, 2024

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Apple CEO Tim Cook invokes 1918 epidemic in virtual commencement address


Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers a virtual commencement address to Ohio State’s graduating class of 2020.

Ohio State via YouTube

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Apple CEO Tim Cook on Sunday delivered a virtual commencement address to Ohio State’s 2020 graduating class, saying he was sorry that they couldn’t all be together for the special event but expressed optimism they would overcome the challenges they face as they leave school.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Ohio State officials announced plans on April 3 to hold a virtual commencement in order to comply with restrictions on large gatherings.

Cook’s address hearkened back a century, discussing the accomplishments of future President Franklin D. Roosevelt, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart and poet T.S. Eliot as they dealt with the challenges posed at the time by the 1918 flu epidemic.

It can be difficult to see the whole picture when you’re still inside the frame, but I hope you wear these uncommon circumstances as a badge of honor.

Those who meet times of historical challenge with their eyes and hearts open — forever restless and forever striving — are also those who leave the greatest impact on the lives of others.

In every age, life has a frustrating way of reminding us that we are not the sole authors of our story. We must share credit, whether we’d like to or not, with a difficult and selfish collaborator called our circumstances.

And when our glittering plans are scrambled, as they often will be, and our dearest hopes are dashed, as will sometimes happen, we’re left with a choice. We can curse the loss of something that was never going to be…Or we can see reasons to be grateful for the yank on the scruff of the neck, in having our eyes lifted up from the story we were writing for ourselves and turned instead to a remade world.

Cook went on to describe how lucky he felt when he was hired to work at Apple in 1998 with Steve Jobs, as well as the heartbreak when Jobs died.

“But fate comes like a thief in the night. The loneliness I felt when we lost Steve was proof that there is nothing more eternal, or more powerful, than the impact we have on others,” Cook told the graduates.

“Those of us who can look back on this time and remember inconveniences and even boredom can count themselves lucky. Many more will know real hardship and fear. Others still will be cut to the bone,” he said.

“And while we turn to our loved ones and friends for comfort, think hard about those whose impact on your life is more distant, but no less meaningful.”

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