MacIver News Service | July 12, 2019
By Chris Rochester
MILWAUKEE – Freedom fighter Ismael Hernandez was a card-carrying communist – a true believer in the Cuban revolution – an all-consuming belief system that defined most of his young life.
Then he came to the United States to attend college at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Throughout college, his point of view gradually transformed as he realized the stark differences between American-style freedom and Cuban-style communism.
He began a personal transformation. It was a truly spiritual change from the quasi-religion that is collectivism and Marxism to the mindset that all individuals have their own, God-given dignity.
Hernandez went on to work in the ministry in southwest Florida, where he became disillusioned with the way the poor are treated by well-meaning but ineffective government programs.
“I was in ministry in the inner cities of southwestern Florida and I began to see the paternalistic, condescending ways that we see the poor,” Hernandez told MacIver at a recent presentation in Milwaukee.
“We basically give them stuff. That’s what we do, we give them free stuff and free stuff, and the person is waiting to be spiritually awakened and I did not like that.”
As part of his long journey from Marxist to free market fighter, he left his job to start the Freedom and Virtue Institute, a group with a mission of transforming how we treat the poor, and a mission of truly helping the poor lift themselves out of poverty through opportunity instead of handouts.
“We don’t believe in this paternalistic, condescending attitude toward the poor, that they’re just mouths to be fed and bodies to be clothed. No, they are unique, unrepeatable persons made in the the likeness of God and they have that moral capacity of self-realization,” he said.
The poor will never prosper unless they’re viewed as dignified people capable of transforming their own circumstances.
“If you believe in that about the poor, you will see them prosper. If you don’t believe that, the best you can do is get out of the way. Get out of the business of the helping the poor because you will do more harm than good.”
Doing good for the poor and changing the way we approach the plight of poverty is what Hernandez’s life mission has become. And contrary to mainstream thinking, he preaches a different kind of message, one of hope – that the poor can lift themselves out of poverty if government gets out of the way.
“Only freedom can do that. Only economic freedom can do that. Only opportunity to be free in the economy can do that for the poor.”
We spoke with Ismael Hernandez and present his speech in Milwaukee in this edition of the MacIver Newsmakers Podcast.