Tim Cook Offers Excellent Crisis Guidance in Commencement Address

Apple CEO Puts the Coronavirus Crisis in Perspective for 2020 Graduates of Ohio State University    

5/6/2020 – – With college campuses closed across the country because of the coronavirus pandemic, commencement ceremonies — important rites of passage — are being held “virtually.” This week, 2020 graduates of Ohio State University were treated to a memorable online commencement address by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Beautifully constructed, Cook’s speech offers the homebound Buckeyes useful perspective on the unexpected crisis now buffeting their lives. He defines the choice created by most crisis situations: to curse the challenge or use the disruption to shape a brighter future:   

“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.”

In Chapter 2 of The Crisis Preparedness Quotient – Measuring Your Readiness to Weather a Reputational Storm (“Thinking of a Crisis as an Intermission”), I compare a crisis to the intermission of a Broadway play. I find this metaphor useful in focusing clients experiencing crises on moving beyond whatever mess they’ve gotten themselves into (Act I) to figuring out what they have to do to shape a brighter future (Act II). Like this year’s college graduates, we are all at an intermission in our lives. The end of this play has yet to be written. Cook reminds us that the pen is in our hands. That’s the good news.   

It’s well worth your time to read the text or watch the video of Cook’s speech (linked below, it runs about eight minutes). If you’re ever given the honor of delivering a commencement address, you can use this as an outstanding example of the genre. He opens with fascinating, relevant historic references to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic that you will be sharing with friends. And his advice regarding crisis response is worthy of the best crisis counselors.



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