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Former Marxist to discuss free-enterprise journey at Wingate

by Luanne Williams

What does free enterprise have to do with morality? Find out Monday at Wingate

A former Marxist who grew up wanting to destroy the United States, Ismael Hernandez is now a champion of free enterprise and founder of the Freedom & Virtue Institute. He’ll share his story Monday at Wingate University.

Hernandez grew up in Puerto Rico, where his father helped start the Socialist Party. His mother sent him to mass with neighbors, but even as he became active in the Catholic Church, he embraced his father’s hatred of America and capitalism.

Hernandez decided to become a Jesuit priest with the hope of going to Nicaragua to study liberation theology. Instead, he wound up coming to the United States, to what he called “the guts of the monster,” and enrolling in the University of Southern Mississippi.

As he experienced the freedoms of American life, his distrust of the nation began to dissolve. He read the Federalist Papers and other writings of the Founding Fathers and began to embrace the ideals of free enterprise. To his father’s dismay, he renounced communism.

After earning a master’s in political science, Hernandez worked in Catholic social services. In 2009, he founded the Freedom & Virtue Institute, a nonprofit organization committed to individual liberty, human dignity and self-reliance. Based in Fort Myers, Florida, the organization offers workshops, consultations and educational conferences to help develop local networks of like-minded activists.

In 2016, Hernandez published Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America, laying out his vision for a future free from what he calls the “reign of race-consciousness.”

Hernandez’s speech, titled “Embracing Freedom: A Journey to America,” is part of the Jesse Helms Center’s BB&T Program on the Moral Foundations of Free Enterprise. It is set for 7 p.m. on Monday in the Batte Center’s Plyler-Griffin Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Oct. 24, 2018