The Freedom & Virtue Institute: A Grassroots Commitment to Human Dignity and Flourishing

In my role as a Senior Advisor to Acton Institute I enjoy many opportunities to teach, write and network with other Christian leaders. One of those leaders is Ismael Hernandez. I met Ismael at Acton University in Grand Rapids in June of this year. (If you are interested please note that the next AU occurs June 12-15, 2012. I hope some of you will plan to join me.)

3.5x5IsmaelHernandez 048 At our meeting this June Ismael Hernandez and I exchanged business cards and then began a correspondence. I grew interested in his small but well-focused work. He directs the mission of The Freedom & Virtue Institute in Ft. Meyers, Florida. This work is dedicated to the disseminating idea of a free and virtuous society and thus champions the ideas of freedom and virtue and supports practical strategies to realize and implement these ideas.

Ismael correctly believes that human freedom and private initiative are the best instruments to effect lasting and positive change in society. This is why their work highlights the limited role of government and the importance of family, communities, volunteer organizations and churches. This practice is at the core of what Acton Institute promotes so I’m deeply interested in Ismael’s work.

The Freedom and Virtue Institute believes that the essential virtues build character and promote individual and collective well-being. These are essential to authentic human fulfillment and flourishing. They understand that it takes people who believe this deeply to promote it through teaching and modeling it.

They also believe that each human person is unique and unrepeatable and thus each human person is called to know the truth and do good. The human person possesses a dignity that comes from being made in the image of God. This means that the person must remain at the forefront of ideological commitments and social action.

Further, Ismael believes we are called to autonomous living and independence. What this means is that each of us must take charge of our improvement to meet the challenges of life in community. This does not suggest that we live in isolation but instead presumes a deep personal responsibility for our actions and affirms our inherent capacity to better ourselves and help others.

The Freedom and Virtue Institute also believes in the moral benefit of work and diligence in developing character. Reward must be connected to achievement in order to avoid the attitude of entitlement, dependency and victim identity. When we work, we utilize the gifts God has given to us for our benefit and that of others. Linked to the moral benefit of work is the role of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur is a person who recreates their environment and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcomes of their personal endeavors. Thus the Institute affirms the entrepreneurial vocation as the pursuit of one’s goals and passions by using the talents and capacities with which they are endowed.

Finally, the Institute believes that nothing should be done by a bureaucracy that can be done as well by a smaller, simpler or more local community. Limited government and personal freedom ought to reign supreme over the centralization and excessive intervention characteristic of the welfare state.

I encourage you to check out The Freedom and Virtue Institute. If you live anywhere near Ft. Meyers, Florida, you might set up a time to meet Ismael and get involved. The address of the Institute, and Ismael’s email, is listed here if you’d like to contact him directly:

Freedom & Virtue Institute
2714 Oakridge Court, Suite 602-D
Fort Myers, FL 33901
(239) 322-8082
Ismael@FVInstititue.org