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.”
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.”
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.'”
He then paused for several seconds as he appeared to fight back tears.