Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday spoke out on a variety of civil rights issues facing his home state of Alabama and the U.S. at large, comparing slow progress on rights for the LGBT community with the country's long struggle to reach racial and gender equality.
In a speech at his induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor, an institution that celebrates distinguished Alabamans, Cook called on the state to be more proactive on issues of equality, including those pertaining to LGBT rights and equal opportunities in education.
He said Alabama was too slow to act on issues of racial equality in the 1960s, noting it has only been 14 years since interracial marriage was made legal in the state. Cooks added that Alabama is "still too slow on equality for the LGBT community," citing a legal right to fire people based on their sexual orientation.
"We can't change the past, but we can learn from it and we can create a different future," Cook said.
Apple has been increasingly vocal on the topic of diversity in the workplace, with Cook noting in August that the situation in Cupertino needs improvement. The company recently celebrated its diversity at the LGBT pride parade in San Francisco and continues to pursue initiatives that address the so-called Silicon Valley gender gap.
In his speech today, Cook also called for reform in education, saying a lack of equal access to technology and knowledge puts entire communities at a disadvantage, especially minorities.
"They're born with a built-in headwind into a fate they did not choose," Cook said. "This isn't right, it isn't just, and it isn't a reflection of our deepest values."
Earlier today, Apple announced its contribution to President Barack Obama's ConnectED technology in education program, which aims to even the playing field for underrepresented schools across the country. Apple is outfitting 114 schools in 29 states with iPads for students and educators, Macs for teachers and Apple TVs for classrooms.