16 Oct

My Life Is Precious – A Reflection

“My Life Is Precious ” – A Reflection by Ismael Hernandez

July2017CorridorFeature-FVI_Page_1A few years ago, my wife and I were awakened by a loud thump on our door. We rushed out to find the meaning of the commotion only to find a young girl from our youth group heavily leaning against the door and crying. We helped her in and discovered that for many months she have been taking care of her three siblings all by herself while her mother was out there, somewhere, ravaging on drugs.

From time to time the mother would reappear for some fading moments, only to fade away again, like a ghost, into the darkness and the shadows of the drug underworld.

We took her in for a while till she decided to go back and face the dreaded reality; one with which at times she coped by hurting herself. To make a long story short, that same girl is today happily married, is a nurse, and joined the board of our institute to support the cause of freedom.

Her mother, at one time the victim of her appetites, has remarkably recovered. Yes, she is still struggling but is back at the home with her kids and trying to put her life together. It is as if among the ashes of a broken existence she found an unfamiliar strength, a strength that helped her choose to change. At one point she stood on her feet and shouted, “My life is precious and I will fight for my life.”

Every day, the drama of human existence shows itself before us, and we are confronted by it and challenged to give an answer to it.

The most obvious and unarguable source for the human capacity to choose, is that we are free beings called to make or break our life by the choices we make. Unfortunately, for too long we have believed a lie. The lie that there is some entity that can rescue us from ourselves. Our fate is the result of forces outside of our control, structures that impede our success. Ironically, the same structures that harm our existence are the ones called to repair the damage. Government has become an idol the poor hate but still worship.

For long I believed that lie, the lie that we are tokens in an inexorable historical process that swallows our individuality and can be countered only by another determinism, the one that collapses the whole of society into the affairs and institutions of the state.

Let me read to you briefly from my father’s FBI record.

Proletarian class struggle is the fountain that will bring about the collapse of the capitalist institutions. The function of our workers party is to expand this struggle from the present economic phase to a political phase. That is, shift from claiming rights against particular corporations and Capitalist bosses into a war against the whole system, claiming profound economic, social, and political transformations.

We are victims of forces and the solution is found not on individuals pursuing their interest but in using our victimization as a collectivized tool of class struggle. But this formula carries a drawback that I believe is virtually devastating to our people. This drawback has been at the heart of poverty alleviation efforts in America where the unique and unrepeatable human person is lost in an expansive and yet shallow sea of statism. The drawback ties the poor to their victimization by linking power to his status as victim.

People talk about greed actualized by human freedom? Real greed comes when the individual discovers that the great behemoth of government is not bringing about the expected outcome, and the hopes of salvation from above fade. Then, he becomes an island, hoarding what he can from the pieces of the broken collectivist dream. What sociologists call social disintegration is nothing more than the spectacle of individuals playing fast and loose with other individuals in relationships where trust and responsibility are a must.

the heart of the earth

The social victim is collectively entitled but individually demoralized. Since he has been made a victim by society he comes to believe that his condition is dependent more on external forces than by his own initiative. Without realizing it, he transfers his value to a structure, he becomes a slave. And we often contribute to his bondage!

Power found in victimhood may incentivize political action instead of economic initiative and rabid activism against society combined with passivity within the sphere of his personal life. What a tragedy!

The lure of this tragic affair offers personal innocence and corporate indictment. But “Innocence is ignorance”, Kierkegaard says. Ignoring our personal responsibility for our lives is the death of aspiration, the erasing of true hope.

The truth is that my life is my responsibility, and no one else’s. When we recognize the responsibility of the poor we uplift them, we highlight their dignity. When we don’t, we hurt them, and I don’t care what we do for them, we still hurt them. There is no true compassion in treating people like dogs. The spirit of poor communities simply cannot breadth under the weight of the free stuff we dump at them.

Lumping people into collectivized categories of “poor” or “rich”, “black” or “whites” is an affront against human dignity as it erases the face of people, herding them into plantations of dependency and sameness. The fact remains that the individual is the seat of all energy, creativity, motivation, and power.

Pursuing our interest is the best antidote against poverty and the greatest contribution to the good of others. To pursue my interest is simply to go after what is dear to my heart, what makes me move in the direction of wholeness and what triggers my desire for cooperation. We are most strongly motivated when we want something for ourselves. “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” We lend our energy to collective endeavors better when we are engaged in what we want for ourselves.

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11 Oct

Call for Sponsors – Tennis Exhibition

We are pleased to announce that the Freedom & Virtue Institute will be have a Freedom Pro Tennis Exhibition featuring Madison Keys, Bjorn Fratangelo, Jennifer Brady and Mitchell Kruger on Saturday, December 16, 2017 at the Academia Sánchez-Casal, located at 4995 Airport Pulling Road North in Naples. There are corporate and individual sponsorship and advertising opportunities available.

Don’t miss out on this fabulous opportunity to get up close and personal with four of the top competitors in USA Tennis.


Tennis Sponsorship Form

Complete Sponsorship Form Registration for FVI's Freedom Pro Tennis Exhibition

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17 Aug

Acton University 2017

Members of the staff including Mark Wardell, Angeli Chin and Ismael Hernandez attended Acton University in Grand Rapids, MI this past summer.  Accompanying them were Chairperson Carmen Salome and board member Samuel Rodriquez, as well as Kara Jeudy, Development Director of The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades.

Ismael & Sam- ACton

Ismael Hernandez and Samuel Rodriquez attending Acton University 2017

What is Acton University?

  • Four days that integrate sound economics, business, philosophy, theology, and intellectual history
  • A customized learning plan that you create: featuring over 120 courses taught by over 80 experts: an international, world class faculty
  • An exploration of the intellectual foundations of freedom, and respect for the dignity and value of the human person
  • A place to learn about the classical foundations of economics, philosophy, theology, liberty and how they apply to our culture today
  • A unique educational experience enabling you to lead with a greater understanding of the intersection of liberty and morality
  • An international, ecumenical network of attendees helping you to apply your knowledge in shaping culture towards a free and virtuous society

Our very own Ismael Hernandez was a presenter for two courses at Acton University.  This year, FVI members were some of the 1,028 people attending from all over the world.


“It was a great learning experience, with an intense schedule of lectures and learning opportunities. In my opinion, all staff of organizations serving those in need ought to have this learning experience as part of their job,” states Ismael Hernandez.


Make Wardell, PhD shares his experience below:

Blessings from Acton University 2017

A group of five of us from the Freedom & Virtue Institute has just been treated to attend a very special conference. The Acton University 2017 Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan was outstanding in every respect!

• From very generous donors like Mark and Laura Lauer, to the opportunity to meet a European friend and colleague from 20 years ago;

• from the personalized attention to every individual attendee as exemplified by meeting each participant as they arrived into GRR airport from the four corners of the globe (Australasia, Europe, Africa, South America and Asia) and from the four corners of North America, to the personalized schedule of chosen classes for every individual participant;

• from the financial support for travel, tuition and accommodation received by most of the participants, to the three square meals and snacks provided free to all participants every day;

• from the opening plenary delivered by Samuel Gregg, to the closing lecture presented by Ismael Hernandez;

• from the hours of scholarly instruction, to the hours of questions, answers and debate;

• from the Acton University 2017 App specific for the conference containing information and handout-notes on every lecture, to the equally specific Sli-Do App allowing conferees to ask questions electronically on their smart phones during plenary sessions; and

• from the opportunity to converse with like-minded proponents of a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by Christian principles, to the possibility of forming expansive networking connections with scholars, theologians and practitioners committed to religious freedom;

• Acton University 2017 was exemplary.

Within the delectable tapestry of information delight on offer, I’m sure that every participant at the conference had their own personal highlights. For me there were many, but here are three at the top of my list. First, being exposed as a first-time conferee to a well-synthesized CORE curriculum of Christian principles and concepts of anthropology, economics and government that promote the ability of each individual person to flourish in a free and virtuous society.

Second, was the plenary by Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Moore argued that in response to secular pressure to shut down the Christian voice, Christians should get off defense and onto offense, insisting on the right for anyone to have honest discussions and debates in the public square without degeneration by any side to name-calling and disrespect, and that Christians should teach internally and externally the limitations of the state to bind people’s consciences.

Third, were the two excellent lectures by our own Ismael Hernandez who taught that race is a social construct, not a biological condition, and therefore that racism is not based on any tangible reality and could be extinguished if we all look inside ourselves, examine our assumptions and realign them with the biblical mandate that all men and women are created equal in the image and likeness of God and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Ismael taught that hope for the inner city will be realized when ‘helpers’ stop seeing themselves as saviors trying to rescue the poor, but rather that metamorphosis out of a state of poverty will come when the poor are empowered by enablers who challenge them and who are witnesses of transformation when the poor exercise their own engines of creativity and self-reliance.

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13 Jul

Self Reliance Clubs Working Through the Summer

Summer is a busy time at the Freedom & Virtue Institute.  We have been busy learning and building; planting and preparing for the upcoming school year.  Under the direction of Dr. Mark Wardell, new curriculums are being developed, community gardens are being planned and students are learning the value of work and reward.

To learn more about our Self Reliance Clubs click HERE or Contact Us


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12 Jul

Promoting the Virtue of Meaningful Work

We are honored to announce our founder and executive director, Ismael Hernandez, was the cover feature for The Corridor in July.  This in-depth feature article chronicles the programs and mission that has been developed through the years at the Freedom & Virtue Institute under he passionate guidance of Mr. Hernandez.

As explanation of the institute’s name, Hernandez notes that in the Greek, “virtue” is not a term of morality but means “excellence of all kinds.” And he argues that for a person to be successful and to contribute to society, freedom and excellence are inextricable.

Please see the article below in its entirety.  The Corridor proudly serve residents and businesses in Fort Myers, Florida, directly off the Daniels, Metro, Plantation, Six Mile and Treeline thoroughfares. Since mailing their first issue in August 1999, their goal has always been to create and foster community spirit. They love connecting people through what they do, and highlighting the positive people, places and things that make our Southwest Florida home so special.

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10 Apr

It’s A Wrap! 2017 FVI Golf Charity ClassicTar

On a beautiful Saturday morning over 100 participants came out to the glorious Grandezza Golf and Country Club to participate in the 6th Annual FVI Charity Golf Classic.  With many silent auction items, raffle items and lively competition, the event was a sight to behold!


Congratulations to our winners:

Closest to the Pin (Women):   Tara McKenna – 18′ 10″
Closest to the Pin (Men): Michael Whiteneck – 7′ 2″
Longest Drive (Women):  Karen Kranec
Longest Drive (Men):  Huston Muzio

Team Winners

1st Place – 49.8

Chris Dwyer, Dustin Felton, Fed Farrell and Mike Slamka

2nd Place – 52.6

David Vasquez, Tara McKenna, Megan Clipse and Rick Pense

3rd Place – 53.6

Luke Farmer, Mike Claman, Jordan Howell and Rick Cecil

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22 Mar

Countdown to the Golf Classic

Time is running out to get your team registered for the greatly anticipated 6th Annual Charity Golf Classic being held on Saturday, April 8th from 7:30 am to 2 pm at Grandezza Golf and Country Club, located at 11481 Grande Oaks Boulevard in Estero. Proceeds from this effort will go to fund and expand FVI’s Self Reliance Club project, which includes elementary and middle schools in Lee and Collier County.  This initiative provides students with the opportunity to earn money for school and other education related supplies through the achievement of goals, school performance, extra-curricular activities like urban farming, and volunteerism; achievement and reward that comes from initiative, hard work and self-reliance.

Registration begins at 7:00 am the day of the tournament and the event includes a continental breakfast, 18 holes of golf at one of the best and most challenging course in southwest Florida, catered lunch, awards and a short program.

Grandezza 6th Annual Golf

“This event has become one that our supporters don’t want to miss and also provides an insight to people unfamiliar with our organization”, states Ismael Hernandez, Executive Director of the Institute. “Registration is now available on our website”. The scramble format is popular and golfers of all ages and skill levels participate. Grandezza is an incredible site and the day promises to be memorable for everyone involved.

Register today!

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14 Feb

Why Good Intentions Are Not Enough

A Deeper Look Into Poverty

by Ismael Hernandez

One day, while sitting at my AFCAAM Center ministry desk, I noticed some young people coming to receive food from our pantry. It dawned on me that we had been giving food to their parents for many years, and now, here they were as adults for food for themselves. Was I—had I been—truly helping, or had I unwittingly become a cog in a machine that perpetuated the bondage of dependency without altering the substance of their existence?
The experience has stayed with me over the years as a reminder that good intentions are not enough. When it comes to service for the poor, we often respond first emotionally, from the heart, and then move into action, via the muscle, without challenging our assumptions. My assumption was that I was doing the best I could to help the poor. Yet, this underlying belief was fraught with the perils of protagonism. After all, we—those trying to meet the needs of the poor–often conform ourselves to models of service in which we become heroes while the poor recede into the background scenery. At times, we might inadvertently contribute to systems that view the poor as passive recipients of our magnanimity instead of creating new paradigms in which we recede to the periphery of action and become witnesses of the effort of beautiful people building their own lives. If only our trust in the poor to determine their own lives matched our pity for them, what a life-changing difference we could make in the lives of the poor!

That is why I believe that the most important question is not that of what causes poverty but rather the question of what causes human flourishing? What is it that moves people to engagement, risk, struggle, and effort? What motivates them to see the obstacles they face only as the context against which their dignity emerges triumphant?
The Freedom & Virtue Institute, which I founded seven years ago, is built upon the bedrock of human flourishing and is dedicated to the promotion of human dignity, individual liberty, and economic initiative. That dignity emerges organically when opportunity meets dedication and when the human person is placed at the center of our focus and efforts. “How may I help you?” is not the greeting we should offer the poor. “We believe in you, we need you!” is the best encouragement we can offer them to be the protagonists of their own lives.

SRC-logoWe accomplish these overarching goals through a series of initiatives, one being The Self-Reliance Club. Active in public schools, the club embraces activities already underway and brings forth their entrepreneurial value. Students work in gardens, the arts, and other endeavors and earn money for their work. We teach them basic economics and at the end of the school year, we take a field trip to Achieve Credit Union or BB&T Bank where we present them their earnings, in the form of a grant, and they each open his/her own bank account. They can use the savings to buy their school supplies and backpacks, instead of getting them handed to them. There is something extraordinarily powerful in earned success and accomplishment that simply is not present in learned helplessness. Students see the value of work and are able to connect their achievement to reward. This year we are excited to be conducting our first Young Entrepreneurs Fair.

The Dignity of Work Initiative is another of our projects. This church-based initiative assists the long-term unemployed through training, and mentoring. God designed us for work, as an expression of our devotion to our “neighbors” and to Him. But what if—for any reason—a person is out of work? A loss of a job often equates to a loss of a sense of purpose and entrenches vicious cycles of dependency and poverty—I am convinced that the poor do not want this. Christians are engaged in helping the poor, but their efforts are often centered onDignityogWork-logo providing food, clothing, and shelter. Worthy endeavors, all. Sixty-two percent of churches operate these kinds of programs, while only two to four percent provide services that lead to employment for those out of work. We want people to receive all the help they can; our initiative simply shifts the paradigm by prioritizing the inherent dignity of the poor and their God-given need to work.

Lastly, our Effective Compassion Training helps non-profits and churches here in Southwest Florida and across the country discover and implement the “seven principles of effective compassion.” By being grounded in sound principles that offer a sound basis to promote ectflourishing, we begin in the mind—with an intelligent and dispassionate assessment of the deeper human needs—then the heart and lastly the muscle. We explore the principles used in the past by people of goodwill when there were no government-run programs. These principles, adapted to present conditions, are still profoundly and vitally important.
The Freedom & Virtue Institute is committed to a new way forward—based on perennial truths—as we look to the problems of poverty. Please contact me if you want to know more about any of FVI’s initiatives.

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14 Jan

Jody Carroll Interviews Ismael Hernandez

Ismael Hernandez, an Everyday Hero

everyday herosThe Everyday Heroes Project, a Stitcher on demand radio broadcast, featured founder and president of the Freedom Virtue Institute on Friday, January 13th. Jody Carroll interviewed Mr. Hernandez in an in-depth look at life growing up in Puerto Rico as a staunch believer in the communist philosophy and socialist party. Hear his transformation from communism to democracy and how the seeds of freedom were planted and forever changed his life.

Stitcher, allows you to ‘stitch’ together your favorite shows into customized station playlists and save them for easy access. Create a news playlist for your morning commute, and a comedy playlist for the weekends. Browse or search through over 65,000+ different shows, or select a pre-set station from Stitcher’s editors like Top 20 Comedy shows, Top 20 News & Politics shows and much more.

#FVI #IsmaelHernandez

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06 Jan

Advisory Board Welcome Luncheon & Presentation

By Invitation Only

FVI-logoHonored guests are invited to attend the 2017 Advisory Board Welcome Luncheon and Presentation to be held Friday, February 3rd from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm in the Rosemary Room at KJ’s Fresh Grill located at 10950 S Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers, FL.

During our welcome luncheon, we will have a short program reviewing what we have accomplished over the past few years and what are plans and goals are for 2017.

Please RSVP below.


RSVP for events or invitations

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