Tim Cook speaks: On cross burnings, gay rights, immigration

December 13, 2013, 10:21 PM UTC

Buffett, Cook, Longoria, Logan, Kagame, Auburn Dean June Henton

Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook made a rare public appearance — and a 13 minute speech — at the United Nations Tuesday.

He touched on three issues close to his heart:
Racism. “Growing up in Alabama,… I remember very vividly witnessing a cross burning.”
Gay Rights. “Now is the time to write these basic principles of human dignity into the book of law.”
Immigration reforms. “Do not do them because they are economically sound — although they are — do them because they are right and just.”

The occasion was a lifetime achievement award bestowed on Cook by his alma mater, Auburn University. Top billing in the university’s press release, however, went to Auburn’s “quality of life laureate”: Howard Buffett, author, philanthropist and eldest son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

The quality of life award was established 20 years ago to honor Auburn alumni who have made “significant and lasting contributions to individual, family and community well-being locally and around the world.” If they also made a contribution to the university, the press release was discreet enough not to say.

Cook received his award from Don Logan, former CEO of Time Inc. For Buffett, actress Eva Longoria and Rwanda President Paul Kagame did the honors.