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Tim Cook to College Grads: Don't Spend Your Life on the Sidelines (Video)

Cook delivered the commencement address at George Washington University on Sunday.

William Atkins / The George Washington University

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered a challenge to the graduating class at George Washington University on Sunday: Someone has to change the world — it might as well be you.

“The sidelines are not where you want to live your life,” Cook said during his commencement address to George Washington’s class of 2015. “The world needs you in the arena.”

The CEO spoke for 20 minutes, incorporating a handful of personal memories into the speech, like his first trip to Washington as a high schooler (he met then-President Jimmy Carter) and his first meeting with Apple founder Steve Jobs (“It changed my life”).

Cook talked lots about Apple — these are potential employees after all — but he also challenged the students to use their jobs to make a difference regardless of where they end up working.

He mentioned his hero, Martin Luther King, Jr., multiple times as an example of how one person can make a lasting impact on the world.

“There are problems that need to be solved, injustices that need to be ended,” he said. “People that are still being persecuted. Diseases still in need of cure. No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy, your passion, your impatience with progress. Don’t shrink from risk and tune out those critics and cynics.

“History rarely yields to one person, but think and never forget what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.”

Cook also started things off with a little humor, breaking the ice with a “please silence your cellphones” announcement before getting into the speech.

“For those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode,” he said. “If you don’t have an iPhone, please pass it to the center aisle. Apple has a world-class recycling program.”

It’s graduation season, so Cook isn’t the only CEO passing down advice to college grads. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel gave the commencement address to USC’s Marshall School of Business on Friday. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff addressed UC Berkeley graduates on Saturday.

Here’s a video of Cook’s speech:

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