Tim Cook on Why He Went to That Awkward Trump Meeting

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Under normal circumstances, business leaders meeting with America’s future President would just be business as usual. When those leaders represent the liberal stronghold of Silicon Valley and that future President is Donald Trump, however, it’s anything but.


So after Tim Cook and other top tech executives met with the President-elect last week, the Apple CEO explained his (visibly uncomfortable) attendance to employees on Monday, basically saying it’s better to have a seat at the table than stand screaming in the hall.

Asked in an internal communication how important it was for Apple to “engage with governments” in light of last week’s meeting, Cook wrote, “Personally, I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be.”


“The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena,” said Cook in an Apple Web posting obtained by Techcrunch. “So whether it’s in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage. And we engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree.”

In the same answer, Cook reaffirmed Apple’s commitment to its ideals, pledging to continue “stand[ing] up for what we believe in”:

Governments can affect our ability to do what we do. They can affect it in positive ways and they can affect in not so positive ways. What we do is focus on the policies. Some of our key areas of focus are on privacy and security, education. They’re on advocating for human rights for everyone, and expanding the definition of human rights. They’re on the environment and really combating climate change, something we do by running our business on 100 percent renewable energy.


We very much stand up for what we believe in. We think that’s a key part of what Apple is about. And we’ll continue to do so.


“I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling,” wrote Cook. “You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.”

Of course, when it comes to key issues like immigration, it’s hard to imagine how “a debate of ideas” could influence the President-elect. And as admirable as Cook’s commitment to open dialogue might be, Trump’s victory itself makes a solid case for just yelling.