Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday gave an impassioned speech about equality after picking up a lifetime achievement award.

In giving the speech at Auburn University for Lifetime Achievement, Cook surprised guests as he is normally adamantly private about such issues.

He began by stating the importance of “basic human rights and human dignity”. Going on, he addressed LGBT rights, and acknowledged the importance of human rights advocates.

Speaking about the equal rights principles he said he was proud to support at Apple, Cook went on to commend the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

He said: “These values have also recently guided us to support legislation that demands equality and non-discrimination for all employees regardless of who they love.”

Adding elements of his childhood growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, Cook said he saw the “devastating impacts of discrimination,” and said that after he saw a burning cross, he saw it as a “symbol of ignorance, of hatred, of a fear of anything different than the majority.”

Referencing Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, he specifically spokje of the LGBT community.

Quoting Kennedy, he said: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but…each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others…he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. Those ripples build a current, which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. Each generation is present with its own unique opportunities to address inequality and injustice; to respect human rights and the dignity and the worth of a human person. This work is never finished, but it is always possible,” adding his own words.“Today we have an opportunity…to eliminate discrimination of the LGBT community.”

Going on, he asked supporters to “advocate and push for immigration reform that recognizes basic human rights and human dignity…do not do them because they are economically sound, although they are. Do them because they are right and just.”

Concluding, he said: “Never allow the majority to limit the rights of the minority. Never allow people who fear anyone different from themselves to limit others’ human rights.”

Cook’s speech resulted in applause throughout.