The full speech was captured on video by an attendee of the event, who posted it on YouTube.
Tolerance and inaction, Stephenson said, is what keeps prejudice and resentment alive behind a curtain of civility, and it's tearing the country apart.
"Our communities are being destroyed by racial tension," he said, "and we're too polite to talk about it."
Recounting the experience of one of his closest friends, Stephenson described how the effects of race are often hidden to those who don't grapple with it on a daily basis.
Stephenson admitted he had always been somewhat "confused" by the racial views of his friend, a black physician who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when he saw him address a mostly white church congregation about being refused service at restaurants, being called "boy" and even fearing being stopped by police in his own neighborhood, Stephenson finally understood the depth of his friend's frustration.
"Now I've got to tell you, I get his anger when somebody responds to the Black Lives protest by saying 'all lives matter,'" Stephenson said. He added:
When a parent says, 'I love my son,' you don't say, 'What about your daughter?'When we walk or run for breast cancer funding and research, we don't say, 'What about prostate cancer?'When the president says, 'God bless America,' we don't say, 'Shouldn't God bless all countries?'And when a person struggling with what's been broadcast on our airwaves says, 'black lives matter,' we should not say 'all lives matter' to justify ignoring the real need for change.
Stephenson said he was stunned to hear about his friend's experience, but is now determined not to be a bystander.
"If this is a dialogue that's to begin at AT&T, I feel like it probably ought to start with me," he said, to a standing ovation.