Interesting advice to live by

Sometimes, you can get great advice from at an unexpected time.

Such was the case during this year’s Teen Choice Awards on Aug. 11.

That’s when Ashton Kutcher delivered a talk that should be mandatory listening not just for the teens and tweens who were in attendance at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif., and who were watching live on television, but to everyone.

His words offer a reminder of the things that Americans have always stood for, but at times, it seems, are increasingly overlooked. It was advice that is very rarely offered in public these days, and even more rarely offered from the stage during an awards show.

While accepting his Ultimate Choice Award, the 35-year-old Kutcher extolled the virtues of hard work and of not being afraid of taking chances.

Kutcher’s best known as an actor and a producer, whose television work has included “That ’70s Show,” MTV’s “Punk’d” and whose films have included “Dude, Where’s My Car” and “What Happens in Vegas.” He famously replaced Charlie Sheen on the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” and has the lead role in the film “Jobs,” the story of Steve Jobs, the Apple founder, which opened a couple of weeks ago. It was a different kind of jobs that Kutcher was talking about three Sundays ago, however.

In his speech, Kutcher said that he believed that “opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, then I got a job in a grocery story deli and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground.”

Kutcher’s life has no doubt taken many fortuitous turns since he grew up in the areas surrounding Cedar Rapids and Homestead, Iowa. As a top name in the entertainment industry, he’s able to command a huge salary for any project he is involved in, and is in a good position to be picky about when and on what he works.

It wasn’t always that way, however, and that’s a lesson Kutcher, whose given name is actually Christopher Ashton Kutcher, wanted to drive home.

“I never had a job in my life that I was better than,” Kutcher said. “I was always lucky just to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.”

In addition to his talents, Kutcher’s looks and charisma have played a big role in his career – People Magazine, in fact, ranked him third in its 2006 listing of the Sexiest Men Alive – yet his message to the young people on that subject was blunt: “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it – be smart, be thoughtful and be generous.”

He also reminded his listeners to not be afraid to take chances. “You can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So, build a life – don’t live one, build one,” he said.

It was sound advice, and it applies to everyone, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats – to all Americans, for that matter. Work hard, be kind to others and chase your dreams -it’s the stuff that our way of life has been built on and advice that has, arguably, too often been ignored or forgotten.

It was advice delivered from a platform – an awards show – and by a messenger – Kutcher – that were both a little unexpected.

But the words are powerful, and certainly should give everyone something to think about.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is the executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)