Opinion: Opportunity for a lifetime



Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer is a columnist for The Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

At the 2013 Teen Choice Awards, as he received the Ultimate Choice Award, Ashton Kutcher did not give an acceptance speech of accolades and gratuitous thank yous to every breathing human in his life. Rather, he spoke plainly about three things he learned before he became an actor when he was known simply as Chris.

First, Kutcher talks about opportunity: “I believe opportunity looks a lot like hard work.” Kutcher referred to every job he had ever had as a stepping-stone to the next job, never quitting one until he had the next. He emphasized that he never had a job that he was better than, being lucky just to have one.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an A-list celebrity working to inspire an entire generation by saying that rugged individualism is a virtue worth having and that pretentiousness has no place in the workplace. I can attest to Kutcher’s advice, having worked for the same employer for the last three years. I have only grown in skill and experience, working in and around water with students of all ages as a water safety instructor and lifeguard.

Kutcher spoke to a whole generation, when he said, “the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart.” Modern popular culture relegates youth and vitality above all other virtues, even though they are the most fleeting. In effect, Kutcher condemns cultural shallowness in a way that is unpretentious as the message he was delivering. He said it all was “crap.”

Kutcher’s last piece of advice regarded “living life.” Kutcher encouraged the crowd to “build a life” not just to live one. He emphasized that the people who built the world we live in are no smarter than we are and that we can make a life of our own.

It seems that Kutcher is not only capturing the entrepreneurial spirit but also encouraging kindness and generosity towards our fellow man. I believe that creating for you and helping others along the way captures what it is to be an American. This is also a lesson we can learn from immigrants. It seems to me that people who have not grown with the luxuries of this country tend to appreciate them more. These are business owners, doctors, farmers and leaders in this great country.

It is unacceptable in my mind to hear from people that society is set against the individual succeeding. It is unacceptable to me that any able-bodied individual thinks for a moment they need others to take care of them. Making your own life is as hard as you are willing to work. It is true that some folks are smarter or stronger than others but there is seldom anything accomplished by talking about that which we cannot change.

Rather, Kutcher, and voices like his, encourages us to be better people making a better world. We can fill our heads with an infinite number of I can’ts, but we can’t start making a life for ourselves if we do not believe we can.