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Ashton Kutcher wore his heart on his sleeve accepting the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa Friday night, saying, “Character hides and it comes out when you get smacked in the mouth.”
Kutcher was presented with the honor that salutes “individuals who demonstrate good character as a role model.”
“I actually think that when you do nice things for people, I come from a world where you don’t really talk about it and you don’t receive praise for it,” he said. And when it’s done, you go do something else nice because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
His 16-minute speech that followed began tongue-in-cheek, joking, that he’s probably the first person to receive the award “who had a deferred judgment for a felony burglary for trying to break into his high school” at age 18, got “pulled over by a state trooper while tripping on mushrooms,” and had his “name splashed across every gossip magazine as an adulterer, like, five years ago.”
But his emotions rose to the surface as he talked about his personal character-building journey that began when he was a kid protecting his twin brother, Michael, who has cerebral palsy.
“Character hides and it comes out when you get smacked in the mouth,” he said. “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, you’re not going to fight with my brother’ and you tell your brother to keep walking. That’s when character comes out.
“Character comes when those magazines tear you apart for something you may or may not have done and you’ve got to go out and perform tomorrow with everyone looking at you like you might be an adulterer.”
Kutcher went on to pay tribute to his brother, who he said taught him that “the Constitution lies to us — we’re not all created equal. We’re all created incredibly unequal to one another in our capabilities and what we can do and how we think and what we see. But,” he added quietly, “we all have the equal capacity to love one another.”
“I had the great fortune to fail again and again and again,” he continued. “But it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you learn from the mistakes that you make and how you perceive the world that’s coming at you… because life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. Every single time.”
Watch Kutcher’s entire speech here, where he also pays loving tribute to his wife, Mila Kunis, who he says, “kicks my ass on character every day.”