My colleague Richard Barry over at The Reaction brought my attention to a little speech that Ashton Kutcher gave last week at the Teen Choice Awards. He told the teens (and all of us, really, because Kutcher is just that kind of a guy), “I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job.” I’m so inspired that I want to drop an anvil on my foot.
Richard brings up the speech because the conservative media are all a twitter that Kutcher is making a “conservative” statement. As he notes, it is anything but. Hard work is not a partisan issue. But I would go further than that. If anything, hard work is a liberal issue. The conservative movement may talk the talk but it doesn’t walk the walk. It is all about depriving opportunity from the poor and giving huge handouts to the rich who are never allowed to fail. See, for example, TARP.
But I see Kutcher’s statement in a less positive light. He had advantages that many others do not—and I’m not even talking about his boyish good looks. He was brought up in a middle class household when that meant something. It certainly wasn’t a perfect childhood, but I suspect that Kutcher has put the most negative light on it. His brother did have health problems and his parents did finally divorce when he was in his late teens. But it wasn’t a dysfunctional household by any means. What’s more, he did not suffer economically.
During his senior year of high school, Kutcher burglarized that high school with the express intention of stealing money. He was caught. But the authorities didn’t exactly throw the book at him. He was given probation. I generally think that a young black man would have gotten something more. Regardless, it did not stop Kutcher from being able to go off to college. Although he claimed that the burglary straightened him out, once in college he was back to his wild ways. The only job we can see that he did was some summer work that it looks like his mother got him. He then didn’t go on to graduate college. Instead, he won a modeling competition and went pro.
What exactly it is that Mr. Kutcher has to teach teens about the value of hard work is not clear to me. Did he not quit some temp waiting job until he got his modeling contract? It is not surprising when stars think their lives have been solely the result of hard work. But in his specific case, it seems odd. After all, he paternal twin brother Michael had a heart transplant when he was just 13 years old. That ought to make it pretty clear that he’s at least lucky in that way. And that ought to make him realize that he was born with that face. And if it hadn’t been for that, he’d be lucky to be working at some Procter & Gamble factory right now.