The CeO even says how many doors that internship opened for him/her - doors which are not being opened to those of us who simply can't afford to work without pay, because we would starve, or become homeless. This CeO feels they got to where they are through 'hard work' and 'merit', I don't doubt; as it allows them to justify to themselves the inequality in pay and power etc. They get more because they 'deserve it', they 'earned it', they are 'better'; not because they were born ahead in the race, and had opportunities and options not open to the majority of us.
They may well be very able, and talented and hard working - but they were also privileged and started with an advantage.
Unpaid internships are yet another way for those in power to maintain the status quo, and preserve their privilege. If a society/system/organisation claims to be in favour of social mobility, or if it claims to be a meritocracy of some form, it should not be offering unpaid internships, without income support of some form for those who pursue it (such as a universal basic income, or some other solution).
To frame this, I come from a (very) working class background; my parents sacrificed to give me the chance to sit scholarship exams at some of the top schools in the UK. I was exceptionally smart as a child and excelled in the tests and was able to go to one of these schools on a scholarship, with the children of the privileged. I was top of my class, constantly (results were all public). I did well at school, but was unable to get into one of the privileged universities; I was told that I was smart enough but they had 'no places left for me'. I now work as an executive search consultant, for a less than average salary, recruiting academics (I am good at talking to smart people). When I look at my peers from school, at least 75% of them are already top executives at internationally recognized companies. Many of them achieved success young (almost straight away - executive management by 30 years old).
Did they get their through merit? Partly. Did they work hard? I don't doubt that they did Are they smart enough? Yes, but not the smartEST Were there other factors at work? it would seem so to me. Am I bitter about it? not really :)