Until now, Michael Kutcher has been known as Ashton Kutcher’s twin brother. But with his visit to the White House and Congress Tuesday on behalf of the Reaching for the Stars foundation, he is hoping to distinguish himself as a voice for people with cerebral palsy. Kutcher, who has cerebral palsy, is an avowed political junkie who, between his meetings to advocate for more federal funding for research, hopes to meet, among others, his home-state senator, Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinFCC needs to help services for the deaf catch up to videoconferencing tech Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa MORE (D-Iowa), and President Obama during his first trip to Washington.
Why have you decided to lobby Congress?
I’ve found that the disparity between cerebral palsy funding and funding for other disorders is actually pretty unsettling for me. On a personal level, I want to be able to find a cure for it.
I’ll be 33 years old, and I’ve lived with it all of my life. So there may not be hope to help me, but there’s definitely hope to help others out there and children who are going through a rough time in their younger years.
We’re asking for them to dedicate $10 million toward the [National Institutes of Health] and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]. There are more than 800,000 people with cerebral palsy in the U.S. today — one in 278 children [is] affected by cerebral palsy — and there’s no line item in CDC funding at all.
Have you been to Washington before?
I have not. I’m rather excited to come.
What are you expecting?
I don’t have many expectations. All I know of Washington is what I see through the media, and I’m hoping it’s as exciting as it looks.
Are you interested in politics?
I’m a big guy into politics. A lot of people within my job like to talk about sports or football, even though I would say I visit news websites before ESPN.
I like to keep up on politics and especially foreign affairs. I’m big into the whole Iran controversy as well as North Korea. A lot of people look at me weird when I can name off [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad of Iran and [North Korea’s] Kim Jong-il as opposed to the quarterback of some football team.
What made you decide to speak out now?
I’ve been asked to join organizations before … none have really hit home with me as much as Reaching for the Stars.
And I finally told myself that I’m a voice not only for myself for having cerebral palsy, but also for children who may not have to deal with some of the issues I had to deal with growing up. Being Ashton Kutcher’s brother, it gives me the opportunity to be that voice, and I realize that I needed to use the opportunity to help others.
I have limited mobility in my right arm and my right hand. I have a very mild case of cerebral palsy. I wear glasses; I wear a hearing aid; I have slurred speech. To the naked eye, many people don’t know that I even have cerebral palsy because it’s so mild. But if you look at some of my friends who have more severe forms of CP — you’ll see some people in wheelchairs, inability to walk, inability to speak. I have a friend who has to use a machine to communicate with her parents.
I feel very fortunate that I have a voice to be the voice for children. There may not be time to help me, but if we can find a cure, there may be a change to help those with cerebral palsy.
Which members of Congress and White House officials are you meeting with?
We’re meeting with Kareem Dale, who is the president’s special assistant on disability policy, so that’s going to be a big meeting for us.
Also, we’re meeting with one of Sen. Harkin’s advisers — my own senator, Harkin — who covers health on the Appropriations Committee.
And then we’re meeting with Sen. [Chuck] Grassley’s [R-Iowa] team as well, the chief of healthcare there.
I believe we’re meeting with Rep. [David] Loebsack [D-Iowa], my congressman, and possibly Rep. [Tom] Latham [R-Iowa] as well.
Any members not on that list whom you’d like to meet?
I work within the financial industry. The first one that comes to my mind, on a personal level, from Connecticut, is [Sen.] Chris Dodd [D]. [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.], of course. [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev]. And right now we don’t have a meeting with Tom Harkin himself. Sen. Harkin’s been with Iowa and been a senator from Iowa for years, and I’ve known his name for years, so it would be a privilege to sit down with him.
[Sens.] Arlen Specter [D-Pa.], Dick DurbinDick DurbinFill the Eastern District of Virginia Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan MORE [D-Ill.] as well. Of course the big guy, President Obama, but I doubt that’s probably going to occur. I actually did some campaigning here in Iowa for Obama, with Ashton and Demi [Moore, Ashton Kutcher’s wife]. We went to some local colleges here.
What did you do to prepare for your trip to Capitol Hill?
When I became involved with the organization, I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight. I did research on their organization as well as additional research on cerebral palsy. And I’m glad that I did. Even though I’ve had cerebral palsy for 32 years and had to deal with it, I’ve never understood the effects of it or the lack of support in the legislative forum. And that’s what’s driving me to Washington.
Have you ever considered a career in politics?
I graduated here in Iowa with a major in business management and marketing and a minor in finance from Mount Mercy University. I’ve always told myself, as I became older and got more involved and my obsession of politics took hold, I always told myself that if I went back to school, I would pursue the opportunity to study political science.
If the opportunity arose [to run for office], I would definitely look into it. This is my first step in going to Washington and in entering the political arena, so it’s somewhat exciting right now.
We know your brother, but we don’t know much about you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I work for one of the leading pension providers, Transamerica Retirement Services. I’m actually in a transition role right now — I’m a part of the internal sales division, but currently transferring to a management position. We sell 401(k) plans to small and mid-size markets.
I live in Cedar Rapids [Iowa], born and raised, I went to Mount Mercy University here. It’s a nice, humble place to live, and good to raise a family. I have a six-year-old son whom I raise. I enjoy all the activities that a parent would.
I like to golf. I like to travel. Of course, it’s Iowa football season, so I’m rooting for the Hawkeyes.
What was it like seeing your twin brother rise to international stardom?
It was great. I’m so proud of him and his efforts and I think they really send a powerful message … to anyone who has a dream. You look at a kid through high school and through college — all he wanted to do was act. That was his dream. And one way or another, whether luck took hold or not, he found his way. He never gave up. He shot for his dreams. And that’s what makes me proud of him.
Any other plans to continue speaking about cerebral palsy?
Yes, definitely. I hope to continue my efforts on the Hill. I hope to be back next year and the following year until we see some changes in funding and make a difference.
To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Kris Kitto at (202)628-8539 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.