“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
Last week I availed myself of the privilege that every true conservative should by attending the Heritage Resource Bank, held this year in Philadelphia. What is Heritage Resource Bank you ask? Well, let me quote from them directly:
There is a place, once a year, where think tank leaders, policy experts, influencers, donors and activists in the conservative movement come together to share the lessons they’ve learned in the battles for freedom.
That place is the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank Meeting.
Can I start with a few words of wonder at the enduring quality that is the Heritage Foundation and its staff? It is a tribute to the Heritage legends such as Ed Feulner and the late and deeply missed Baron (John) Von Kannon that the quality remains so high at this organization that remains the sanctum sanctorum of the conservative movement.
Indomitable, peripatetic Bridget Wagner and her staff put together a tour de force.
Kevin Williamson was superb at the plenary session Thursday morning and his remarks tied neatly to Dr. Walter Williams’ wrap-up Thursday afternoon. Kevin stressed that a society born in affluence takes for granted the freedom and liberty that produces that affluence. Underneath it all is a burgeoning number of people that are falling (leaping) into what was supposed to be a safety net but is increasingly a way of life for millions of Americans, as the food stamps rolls and number of people on welfare soar (thanks to President Obama weakening requirements).
The next major session highlighted two men who are on the frontlines demonstrating the transformative power of conservative values.
The first was Pat McGee, of Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), who is changing lives by teaching free market, business lessons and skills to people incarcerated in what normally becomes a never ending loop of recidivism. McGee is not simply creating entrepreneurship but truly saving lives.
The second panel speaker was Ismael Hernandez of the Freedom and Virtue Institute. Hernandez grew up in a radical Puerto Rican Communist family and joined the Jesuit order, where “being a socialist was practically a requirement,” and tried to go to Nicaragua to fight for the cause but was denied. The following from his bio charts his transformation from being a dedicated communist:
He then took a great and decisive step and came to America. Of all places, Ismael decided to come to Mississippi and study at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. “I used to joke with my friends that if they turned the TV on and saw a black guy who looked totally lost running while being chased by hooded men, that would be me. I was going after all, as us Puertorican socialists used to say, to las entranas del monstruo [‘the guts of the monster’].”
He describes the culture shock and cognitive dissonance between what he expected to experience and what he found in America; opportunity, welcome, reward for excellence; even as he was still transmuting away from Socialism. Then he began to read works such as the Federalist Papers of those “evil white men” also known as the Founding Fathers. And then he found Thomas Sowell, who “shattered my views on race.”
The Freedom and Virtue Institute is now going into the very heart of the progressive beast, instructing and informing but in a very real sense exposing students and adults to the conservative values of personal responsibility and liberty, values that are disdained and neglected in our institution of civil society:
This directly from Hernandez:
We go to public schools and identify a number of existing activities that have entrepreneurial potential. We adopt these activities and the club centers around them. Students continue to do what they were doing before but now they see themselves as workers, entrepreneurs, instead of as simply doing something “nice.”
An example is our “farming” initiatives at various schools. Before we got to the schools they called these “garden clubs” or simply a school garden. Now, these become farms, which convey the idea of wealth creation. Students work, earn money for their work, learn economics through our sessions using volunteers and expand the farms annually. At the end of the year we take them to a BB&T Bank where we hand them their earnings and they open their own savings account. They use the money to buy their school supplies, uniforms, educational tools, a savings bond, etc. They also earn a portion for a future college or trade school fund. All is earned.
We have another school where we adopted the arts and crafts classroom. Students produce wealth every day and don’t know it! Students are paid for their work and their art is sold. The earnings go to student’s accounts. All is to show the connection between reward and accomplishment and how economic initiative helps people meet all their needs.”
Dr. Walter Williams (is there anyone better?) summarized this perfectly with his talk Thursday evening on a familiar theme of his: that we need to make the case that is it morally superior to live a life of personal liberty and under limited government. Educating our fellow citizens on that basic fact has not been done effectively. And conservatism remains an alien concept to our fellow citizens.
At the lunch session Carly Fiorina gave an impassioned, clear, articulate, polished, and classy speech about the greatness of America being firmly cemented to conservative values that we need to fight for. I saw her at the CEI dinner last year and if anything she is growing stronger as a figure in the movement. It left me wondering about her future role in politics and saddened that she faded from the race so early. Of course, unbeknownst to me at the time, Senator Cruz was also giving serious consideration to her political future.
The most memorable session, in a completely enraging, diabolical, horrific way was the breakout featuring Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer discussing their new “Gosnell Movie” project.
If you don’t know their work, you should. From the documentaries Mine Your Own Business and Frack Nation, they’ve shown themselves to be completely fearless in confronting the enviro left and exposing its lies and hypocrisies.
From Ann and Phelim’s chilling description of their interview with Kermit Gosnell, one understood why they needed a deep well of courage. Read their book Gosnell (released by Regnery) and watch their movie, which is coming out later this year.
Doing so is almost a moral imperative, because their work is not only about an abortion mill run like a houses of horrors (as if abortion could anything less than horrible) but about the zombie-like refusal of governors (Tom Ridge), public health inspectors, and our fellow citizens to look at the truth, even when pro-choice veers deeply into pro-slaughter.
I also had the opportunity to meet Karen Hess and Kim Bennett of Alphacare, who run a pregnancy resource center in Philadelphia. They are working hard to provide life-affirming social services and prenatal education to women in Philadelphia as well as specifically reaching out to provide passionate aftercare to the victims of Kermit Gosnell.
What else can I say about the rest of the Heritage Event?
There were fantastic breakout sections across a wide range of important topics including donor relations, the art of the ask, digital media, improving educational policy, welfare reform initiatives at the state level, patient health care reform, and more.
Did I mention that when Heritage does something they always do it right? And if this sounds like a pitch telling you to go to next year’s Heritage Resource Bank, that’s because it is. You will benefit enormously from the experience.