The That ’70s Show alum got emotional as he stood at the podium holding the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award, which is given annually to “individuals who demonstrate good character as a role model.”
Kutcher, 39, began his 16-minute speech by joking that he was 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.”
“Character hides and it comes out when you get smacked in the mouth,” The Ranch star told the audience at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines, referencing his twin brother, Michael, who has cerebral palsy and had a heart transplant when he was a kid. “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.”
“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,” he added. “Because life doesn’t happen to you, 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.”
Referring to Kunis, his wife of two years (who attended the event), and their children, daughter Wyatt, 2, and 4-month-old son, Dimitri, he continued, “I’m telling you, this morning, I woke up and she kicked my ass on character. 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!”
Kutcher said that his kids have been his “greatest lesson in character in my life.”
“When I had these kids, my wife and I had these kids and we got to share that amazing, amazing, amazing honor, my first response was, I wanted to call my parents and say, ‘I’m sorry, because I never knew how much you loved me,'” he said.
After giving a shout-out to his parents, who divorced when he was 16, he referenced his own 2013 divorce from Demi Moore.
“I had the great fortune of getting a divorce because I felt the impact of it and I felt how much loss is in there and how much love is in there and that it’s not neat or clean or messy,” he said. “And I understood, finally, my parents’ divorce in a whole different way.”
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