Ashton Kutcher may be better known as Kelso on “That ‘70s Show” or Walden Schmidt on “Two and a Half Men” more than someone for social impact.
On Monday, Kutcher is coming to Penn as the speaker for the Lauren and Bobby Turner Social Impact Executive Speaker Series. The event, to be held in the Annenberg Center’s Zellerbach Theatre, will feature a conversation with Kutcher on the subject of social impact and philanthropy.
Bobby Turner, a 1984 Wharton graduate, explains his choice. He understands that Kutcher is one of the biggest celebrities in the media today, but he also wants students to understand that Kutcher is much more than an actor — he’s a philanthropist. He’s someone who wants to make “a meaningful change” in the world.
Though the series’ name includes social impact, Turner said he purposefully brings in celebrities who are non-traditional names in the field to draw in students who may not otherwise be interested in social impact.
In the past, Turner has brought in celebrities — like Eva Longoria, Andre Agassi and Earvin “Magic” Johnson — to Wharton. They have “a huge influence on the next generation of Americans,” he said. Focus groups show that Kutcher is at the top of the list of most influential public figures for kids under the age of 25, Turner added.
Turner explained that Kutcher does have social impact ventures. Kutcher, for example, has investments in several technology startups. He is also involved with Thorn, an international human trafficking organization that he founded with Demi Moore.
Turner started the series five years ago with a mission to bring high profile speakers to Penn in order to “raise awareness and empower the student body” to make an impact, he said.
When Turner himself graduated from Wharton in 1984, he graduated with “a blackbelt in how to create wealth,” he said. However, “I was misguided in my wisdom that with wealth comes happiness … And as a capitalist, I struggled for many years with how to make my wealth meaningful,” he said.
He doesn’t want Wharton students to follow in that same path.
2013 Wharton graduate Kat Muller, who attended an event last year with actress Eva Longoria, said “It’s great that [the Turner Speaker Series] brings celebrities. Even if people aren’t interested in social impact, they’re interested in the celebrity and end up learning more about the social impact.”
Muller herself didn’t know much about Longoria’s philanthropy before the event but learned about Longoria’s organizations, “Eva’s Heroes” and “Padres Contra el Cancer.”
Wharton junior Tiffany Agalaba registered to see Ashton Kutcher because, as she puts it, he’s “beautiful and famous.”
“I don’t even know what he’s supposed to be talking about, but I don’t care,” Agalaba said.
Turner said Kutcher is looking forward to speaking at Wharton.
“He’s interested in bringing the world together and empowering people to be proactive through his investments,” he said.
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