Tim Cook explains to Apple employees why he met with President-elect Trump

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In a series of answers to questions posted on Apple’s internal employee info service Apple Web today, CEO Tim Cook commented to employees on some hot-button topics. We obtained some of the answers to interesting questions about a few topics, including the fate of the Mac — but more on that later.

First up is probably the most topical: Why did he feel it was important to meet with President-elect Trump? The short answer: You have to show up to have a say.

Cook was part of a round table of tech leaders that met with Trump last week. The group included Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Larry Page of Google, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and others. There has been a lot of discussion about the event, but the most prominent difference of opinion among commentators was whether it was worth engaging Trump in this manner at all — given that the publicly expressed values of many of these leaders were at such odds with statements he has made during and after his campaign.

Cook’s case in the internal communication, which we verified is legitimate, is that there was more value in engaging than there was in not doing so. “Personally, I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be,” writes Cook. “The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. 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. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.”

So much for the “take your tech and stay home” camp. The response was given, specifically, to the following question: “Last week you joined other tech leaders to meet President-elect Donald Trump. How important is it for Apple to engage with governments?”

In his response, Cook says that there are specific issues that Apple cares about deeply and that it would need to become an advocate for those things.

“It’s very important [to engage]. Governments can affect our ability to do what we do,” he responded. “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.”

Though this is far from a statement of intent, and he doesn’t mention them specifically, Cook’s strong statement does touch on a variety of topics that abut controversial Trump stances.

“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,” he concludes.

During the close reading and aftermath of the meeting, Cook’s dour expression (seen above) at the table became a meme of the moment. His stoic mien somehow transmitting what most people hoped was the attitude at the table: “I can’t believe I have to be here but someone has to do it.” Cook’s statements to employees seem to back that up.

No one knows for sure whether President-elect Trump will in fact enact many of the sweeping changes to immigration policy, cybersecurity and environmental protection laws that he promised during the campaign — but his cabinet selections so far are not doing much to disabuse people of that notion. If there is going to be a healthy counter-balancing of those policies from the private sector, then CEOs like Cook must be willing to take a firm stance publicly.

I was able to get a hold of this internal posting and it’s out there now, but it would be encouraging (as argued well recently by Kara Swisher) to see these kinds of statements made “on the record” — and for them to be made by more people at that table. I await your calls.

Cook also talked about the future of the Mac desktop and Apple’s differentiating factor in a more and more crowded tech sector, but I’ll have more on that in a bit.

Here’s the posting in full:

Last week you joined other tech leaders to meet President-elect Donald Trump. How important is it for Apple to engage with governments? 

It’s very important. 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.

And of course, creating jobs is a key part of what we do by giving people opportunity not only with people that work directly for Apple, but the large number of people that are in our ecosystem. We’re really proud that we’ve created 2 million jobs, just in this country. A great percentage of those are app developers. This gives everyone the power to sell their work to the world, which is an unbelievable invention in and of itself.

We have other things that are more business-centric — like tax reform — and something we’ve long advocated for: a simple system. And we’d like intellectual property reform to try to stop the people suing when they don’t do anything as a company.

There’s a large number of those issues, and the way that you advance them is to engage. 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. 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. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.

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.

Featured Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci