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At WWDC, Tim Cook takes a moment to talk about Black Lives Matter and coronavirus

Apple's CEO acknowledges the massive events affecting the world before digging into the tech.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook presenting at WWDC 2020. 

Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET
This story is part of WWDC 2021. All the latest coverage from Apple's annual developers conference.

Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off this year's Worldwide Developers Conference addressing two major events affecting the world at the moment: the Black Lives Matter movement and the worldwide conronavirus pandemic. 

Cook said Monday that it's time for the US to "aim higher to build a future that lives up to our ideals" of equality -- and to take action. He highlighted Apple's Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, which will distribute $100 million to "challenge systemic barriers that limit opportunity for communities of color in the critical areas of education, economic equality and criminal justice." And he also talked about the company's new developer entrepreneur camp for black developers.

"Our mission has always been to make the world a better place," he said. "And we're committed to being a force for change."

He thanked the health care workers around the world for their efforts in helping battle the coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world. 

"We want to thank the dedicated people everywhere, especially our health care workers who have made tremendous sacrifices to take care of those in need," he said. 

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Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, which typically draws thousands of programmers, fans and press to a San Jose convention center, was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In its place, Apple is holding an entirely virtual event. Cook also noted that this year's virtual week-long conference has been opened up for free to 23 million developers, as well as anyone who is interested in attending. 

"Presenting the conference in this way allows us to be more inclusive than ever," he said. "Perhaps this will inspire the next generation of developers. So, even though we can't be together in person, in some ways, we're going to be more together than ever."

Support for Black Lives Matter

The death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month has ignited protests in major cities and small towns across the world, demanding social justice for black people. Floyd died during an arrest as a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes despite his cries that he couldn't breathe. Video footage of the event posted to social media sparked protests in more than 140 cities across the country.

Cook and other executives of large companies have expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests and movement. Cook talked about the impact smartphones, like the Apple iPhone have played, in the movement for racial justice, during an interview on Sunday evening with CBS' 60 Minutes.

"The thing that has changed, though, and we're very proud of this, is that we put a camera in everybody's pocket," Cook said. "And so it becomes much tougher as a society, I believe, to convince themselves that it didn't happen, or that it happened in a different manner or whatever it might be."

Cook has used his platform as CEO of one of the most powerful tech companies in the world to share his views on other societal issues. In 2019, he criticized the "insanity" of legislative inactivity regarding gun violence in the US, and in 2018 he was among more than 90 business executives who spoke out against a North Carolina law that would force transgender students to use school toilets "inconsistent with their gender identity."

"You know, there was a time back many years ago where CEOs were just supposed to focus on profits only, and not so much the constituencies. And that's never been my view. I've never subscribed to that," Cook said.

COVID-19

Cook also made sure to acknowledge the coronavirus, which he said has affected the lives of billions of people throughout the world. He cited the "profound impact our products have had" on people who rely on Apple devices to "remain connected to family and friends to do their work, to express their creativity, and to be entertained as well as to entertain others,"during the worldwide stay-at-home orders. 

"Today, the world is counting on all of us and on the products and experiences that we create to move forward," he said. 

Meanwhile, the pandemic is far from over in the US. US COVID-19 cases passed 2 million earlier this month, and several states are now reporting an increase in cases as lockdown orders ease and businesses begin to reopen. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told CNN on June 12 that the current surge in new coronavirus cases isn't a second wave, since cases haven't gone away in parts of the country. 

Due to the surge of new cases in some areas, Apple has said it plans to temporarily close some of its retail stores again. The closures, earlier reported by Bloomberg, will impact 11 stores across Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In March, Apple closed all its retail stores across the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The company has since opened some stores., with increased social distancing measures.