Ashton Kutcher testified at a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday in the hopes of ending modern slavery and human trafficking.
At the start of the hearing, Senator John McCain made a remark on Kutcher’s appearance, telling the actor that he looked better “in the movies.” Kutcher responded to the comment by blowing McCain a kiss.
After that comedic exchange ended, the actor, seated next to Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino, made a passionate speech.
He opened with the following:
I’m here today to defend the right to pursue happiness. It’s a simple notion. It’s bestowed upon all of us by our Constitution. Every citizen in this country has the right to pursue it and I believe that is incumbent upon us as citizens of this nation, as Americans, to bestow that right upon others. Upon each other and upon the rest of the world. But the right to pursue happiness, for so many, is stripped away. It’s raped. It’s abused. It’s taken by force, fraud, or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.
Kutcher acknowledged that internet trolls frequently tell him to “stick to his day job,” so the actor defended his position by explaining what those “day jobs” are.
Outside of fame, Kutcher is a chairman and co-founder of Thorn, a company that builds software to fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. He’s also the father of two ― a 2-month-old son and a 2-year-old daughter ― and insisted that he was at the hearing “to defend their right” to pursue happiness and ensure society defends that, as well.
Amid his appeal to committee, Kutcher held back tears as he shared things he’s experienced during his travels to save children from trafficking, giving horrific examples of individuals who suffered sexual abuse.
“I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia. This child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play,” he said.
Kutcher also addressed what the government can be doing to prevent trafficking going forward, as well as what can be done for individuals after they are saved so they don’t fall back into that world.
“The right to pursue [happiness] is every man’s right. I beg of you that if you give people the right to pursue, what you may find in return is happiness for yourself.”
You can watch Kutcher’s entire speech in the video above.