Ashton Kutcher says wife Mila Kunis "kicks his ass on character" every day and that their two children provided him with the "greatest lesson" on it.
The 39-year-old actor made his comments in an emotional speech at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines in his native Iowa, where he received the Robert D. Ray Pilliar of Character Award Saturday for demonstrating "good character as a role model." The actor is known for his work with local schools and also co-founded the Native Fund, which helps Iowans affected by disasters.
He began his speech by joking that he is probably the first person to receive the honor who had been arrested at age 18 for "felony burglary for trying to break into his high school," for which he was given a deferred judgment, got "pulled over by a state trooper while tripping on mushrooms," which led to no charges, and had had his "name splashed across every gossip magazine as an adulterer like five years ago."
Ashton said that the impact of character is that "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," he said. "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."
"I mean, I'm telling you, this morning, I woke up and she kicked my ass on character," the actor 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!"
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Ashton and Mila are parents to 2 and 1/2-year-old daughter Wyatt and four-month-old son Dimitri.
"But the greatest, greatest lesson in character in my life are my kids," Ashton said in his speech. "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.'"
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Ashton paid tribute to his parents, saying how he was "lucky" after they got divorced, because they married "amazing" people. He also talked about 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," Ashton said. "And I understood, finally, my parents' divorce in a whole different way."
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He also paid tribute to his twin brother Michael Kutcher.
"I was born a twin and from the moment I came into this world I had to share it with someone," the actor said. "I shared every birthday, every Christmas, I shared my bedroom, I shared my clothes, I shared everything I had in this world and I didn't know that there was another way because I always had my brother with me."
He then paused for several seconds as he appeared to fight back tears.
"My brother was born with cerebral palsy and it taught me that loving people isn't a choice and that people aren't actually all created equal," Ashton said. "The Constitution lies to us. we're not all created equal. We're all created incredibly inequal to one another, in our capabilities and what we can do and how we think and what we see. But we all have the equal capacity to love one another, and my brother taught me that."
"When I got older, I spent years and years feeling bad about it, our inequalities," the actor said. "He also taught me that he had gifts that I didn't have. Extraordinary gifts that I didn't have, and that every time I felt sorry for him in life, I made him less. He taught me that and he gave that to me."