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Tim Cook encourages new grads to change the world

Apple's CEO uses commencement speech to relay societal changes he's witnessed during his lifetime and discuss changes still possible.

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Tim Cook challenges new grads to change the world. Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook had one central message Sunday for this year's graduating class at George Washington University: "This is your world to change."

During his 20-minute-long commencement speech, Cook wove together personal stories about meeting Govs. George Wallace and Jimmy Carter as a teenager growing up in Alabama, reading history books that neglected to discuss slavery's role in the Civil Ward, and his first interaction in the late 1990s with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Jobs, he said, "made me question everything, who upended all of my assumptions in the very best way."

Cook said that "great progress is possible" and implored the graduates to find their "north star" and to focus on improving the world. "You don't have to choose between doing good and doing well," he said.

"The sidelines are not where you want to live your life," Cook said. "The world needs you in the arena. There are problems that need to be solved, injustices that need to be ended, 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. Don't shrink from risk."

Despite his very serious message, Cook also worked in a little humor into his commencement speech by taking a dig at non-iPhone smartphones.

"Those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode, and those of you who don't have an iPhone, please pass it to the center aisle," he said. "Apple has a world-class recycling program."

He ended his speech by taking a photo of the graduating class with his iPhone.

Watch Cook's speech in the video below: