When you hear the name Ashton Kutcher, a few words come to mind: handsome, funny, goofy, handsome, talented … and did I mentioned handsome? This past weekend, though, another word — or make that phrase — was officially added to that list: Good character.
Back in his home state of Iowa, Kutcher was awarded the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award on Saturday, which is an annual award that celebrates those who “demonstrate good character as a role model.”
During the 15-minute speech, Kutcher made his audience both laugh and shed a few tears as he spoke eloquently — and at times candidly, with some pretty salty language — about what it truly means to have character.
“You know, I’m probably the first guy to get this award who had a deferred judgment for a felony burglary for trying to break into my high school,” he joked before listing off some of his greatest mistakes. From getting pulled over by a state trooper for tripping on mushrooms (“I had several headlights out,” he shared), to his very public divorce with Demi Moore back in 2013, Kutcher talked about the many ways in which his past mistakes were ultimately a gift, because they gave him the opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
That very growth has been on display in more ways than one recently, but most notably when he testified in Washington last month. Appearing in a suit and tie before a Senate hearing committee, the actor spoke articulately and passionately about the anti-sex trafficking efforts made by his company Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, which creates digital software that can identify and potentially save victims of sex-trafficking.
But it wasn’t until the end of his speech Saturday, when the actor began to speak about his family, that we really see the heart of Kutcher’s character.
“I don’t know that you can take credit for the character that you have,” Kutcher shared before speaking about his twin brother who has cerebral palsy, and the person who taught him that “loving people isn’t a choice.” It was also his brother who made him realize that while we may not all be born equal, we have the same equal ability to love.
“Character hides and it comes out when you get smacked in the mouth,” he continued. “It comes out when you’re walking your brother home from school and some kid hits you in the back of the head because he wants to fight with your brother and you say ‘no’ … That’s when character comes out.”
And just when his speech was about to cause a flood of tears from choked up audience members (and this writer), he kicked things up a notch:
“Life doesn’t happen to you,” Kutcher continued. “It happens for you. Every. Single. Time. And as long as you have love and kindness and optimism and a pursuit of something greater in your heart, you’re the lucky one. So this award is for you. It is for my family, it’s for all four of my parents, it’s for my wife, who kicks my ass on character every day.”
That’s right — Mila Kunis kicks her husband’s ass (in the best of ways) each and every day. And according to Kutcher, he’s a better man for it.
“I mean, I’m telling you, this morning, I woke up and she kicked my ass on character,” he continued. “I thought I was awesome because I got up early and helped with the kids before she woke up and I let her sleep a little bit and then she’s like, ‘Well, now you’re gonna act tired? I do it every day.’ But it was a character moment, right? Because she’s right!”
Moments later, he switched the conversation to his children — daughter Wyatt, 2, and son Dimitri, 4 months — and brought the audience to uproarious laughter when he accidentally screwed up their ages. (Hey, we’ve all been there.) But that’s when he shared just how much fatherhood, above all, has changed him.
“When I had these kids, my wife and I had these kids, and we got to share that amazing, amazing, amazing honor,” he explained, “my first response was, I wanted to call my parents and say, ‘I’m sorry, because I never knew how much you loved me.”
I think it’s safe to say that the award committee made the absolute right choice in picking Kutcher for the Robert D. Ray Pillar award, in more ways than one.
Congrats, Ashton — you deserve it.