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From Inspiration to Activism: A Personal Journey through Obama’s Presidential Campaign

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Mary Lang Sollinger offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at political canvassing and fundraising while following ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the love of our country. Mary’s years of fundraising experience culminated in an incredible opportunity to host a fundraiser at her home with Senator Obama in the fall of 2007. Mary believed in all that he sto Mary Lang Sollinger offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at political canvassing and fundraising while following ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the love of our country. Mary’s years of fundraising experience culminated in an incredible opportunity to host a fundraiser at her home with Senator Obama in the fall of 2007. Mary believed in all that he stood for and knew that she needed to do whatever it took to help Senator Obama and others seek political offices. Mary was tireless in her efforts to get out the vote for Senator Obama through canvassing across Madison, Dubuque, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. While knocking on door after door, Mary found unique ways to overcome obstacles when trying to connect with people on the other side of those doors. She embodied Obama’s campaign mantra: respect, empower, include. After the huge success of Senator Obama’s 2007 fundraiser, Mary went on to organize twelve fundraisers throughout Wisconsin in fourteen months. As a result of her fundraising successes, she was asked to serve on President Obama’s National Finance Committee, both in 2008 and 2012. Mary has generously shared many inspirational and invaluable lessons learned throughout her years of experience. Included in her book is an epilogue with nine lessons and examples of successful fundraising for those who may want to host their own fundraising event.


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Mary Lang Sollinger offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at political canvassing and fundraising while following ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the love of our country. Mary’s years of fundraising experience culminated in an incredible opportunity to host a fundraiser at her home with Senator Obama in the fall of 2007. Mary believed in all that he sto Mary Lang Sollinger offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at political canvassing and fundraising while following ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the love of our country. Mary’s years of fundraising experience culminated in an incredible opportunity to host a fundraiser at her home with Senator Obama in the fall of 2007. Mary believed in all that he stood for and knew that she needed to do whatever it took to help Senator Obama and others seek political offices. Mary was tireless in her efforts to get out the vote for Senator Obama through canvassing across Madison, Dubuque, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. While knocking on door after door, Mary found unique ways to overcome obstacles when trying to connect with people on the other side of those doors. She embodied Obama’s campaign mantra: respect, empower, include. After the huge success of Senator Obama’s 2007 fundraiser, Mary went on to organize twelve fundraisers throughout Wisconsin in fourteen months. As a result of her fundraising successes, she was asked to serve on President Obama’s National Finance Committee, both in 2008 and 2012. Mary has generously shared many inspirational and invaluable lessons learned throughout her years of experience. Included in her book is an epilogue with nine lessons and examples of successful fundraising for those who may want to host their own fundraising event.

30 review for From Inspiration to Activism: A Personal Journey through Obama’s Presidential Campaign

  1. 4 out of 5

    Margaret George

    This first hand account of being drawn into a political campaign, starting from the sidelines and then increasingly involved, is a fascinating diary of how someone evolves from 'interested' to 'passionate advocate.' The Obama campaign of 2008 was noteworthy for inspiring commitment from people of all ages and backgrounds, which gave (and still gives) it a legendary glow. Sollinger's account of her own involvement is written in clear, concise language, not political gobbledegook---how refreshing! This first hand account of being drawn into a political campaign, starting from the sidelines and then increasingly involved, is a fascinating diary of how someone evolves from 'interested' to 'passionate advocate.' The Obama campaign of 2008 was noteworthy for inspiring commitment from people of all ages and backgrounds, which gave (and still gives) it a legendary glow. Sollinger's account of her own involvement is written in clear, concise language, not political gobbledegook---how refreshing! I highly recommend this book for readers of all levels of interest in how politics, and campaigns, work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I picked up this book from a fundraising standpoint. I had recently connected with the author and hoped I might learn a few things to support a nonprofit I cofounded. The energy that this book conveyed in the first couple of chapters swept me into to the world of political campaigning in which I have no experience. It gave me a new perspective into the behind the scenes work on campaigns. Mary’s story underscored for me the importance of relationships and connections when it comes to fundraising I picked up this book from a fundraising standpoint. I had recently connected with the author and hoped I might learn a few things to support a nonprofit I cofounded. The energy that this book conveyed in the first couple of chapters swept me into to the world of political campaigning in which I have no experience. It gave me a new perspective into the behind the scenes work on campaigns. Mary’s story underscored for me the importance of relationships and connections when it comes to fundraising. This is a quick read for anyone interested in getting started campaign work or leveling up fundraising.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert J Kasieta

    From Inspiration to Activism: A Personal Journey through Obama's Presidential Campaign is a really fine book. The story is compelling and well told. Accounts about knocking on doors for Obama captured the spirit of camaraderie that comes of those experiences. Even more, Mary Lang Sollinger shares what she learned about people, and about humanity. Especially touching was a story of an African American woman who said she would not vote for Obama because she thought if he won he would be hurt. Soll From Inspiration to Activism: A Personal Journey through Obama's Presidential Campaign is a really fine book. The story is compelling and well told. Accounts about knocking on doors for Obama captured the spirit of camaraderie that comes of those experiences. Even more, Mary Lang Sollinger shares what she learned about people, and about humanity. Especially touching was a story of an African American woman who said she would not vote for Obama because she thought if he won he would be hurt. Sollinger describes the spirit of the Obama campaign. Obama made respect a cornerstone of his campaign (using the shorthand "REI," respect, empower, include), and the people he attracted understood it. This book gives insight into the passion of those who served the American people in the Obama Administration. The account of lessons learned from fundraising at the end of the book was really interesting. Mary obviously didn’t just “go through the motions” of raising funds. She recognized what is common to people in our society, what motivates us, what we need, and how to touch those important points. It was also fascinating to learn about Mary's early years in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Her father served in World War II and went on to be a school principal – a very inspiring man. Finally, I was impressed with how much work obviously went into this book. It was clearly a labor of love, but it was surely a labor nonetheless. It was worth the great effort. A lot of people are going to enjoy this read. I did.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary Arnold

    I loved this book. I found myself feeling emotional while reading "From Inspiration to Activism" and remembering how wonderful it was to have an intelligent, compassionate, unselfish and devoted person like Barack Obama as our President. I didn't want it to end - I enjoyed immersing myself in the good old days of 2008-2016. This is an engrossing story written by Mary Sollinger, a down-to-earth, welcoming and friendly Madison activist whom I first met several years ago when she hosted a fund rais I loved this book. I found myself feeling emotional while reading "From Inspiration to Activism" and remembering how wonderful it was to have an intelligent, compassionate, unselfish and devoted person like Barack Obama as our President. I didn't want it to end - I enjoyed immersing myself in the good old days of 2008-2016. This is an engrossing story written by Mary Sollinger, a down-to-earth, welcoming and friendly Madison activist whom I first met several years ago when she hosted a fund raiser for women running for the legislature in Wisconsin. Later one of my friends said "You do know that Mary raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Barack Obama when he first ran for President, right?" I had no idea because Mary is more interested in talking about you than she is in self-promotion. The next time I attended a fundraiser at her home, her husband Hans explained that she couldn't be there with us because she was in Washington having breakfast with President Obama. I realized then that while many of us had been impressed with Candidate Obama when he first came on the scene, Mary went out and did something on a large scale to help him get elected. I also appreciated the behind-the-scenes stories about campaigning, fund-raising and being a National Convention delegate that Mary shared with her readers. I came away with a renewed determination to do what I can to help future candidates. This is an enjoyable and inspiring read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Renz

    The title FROM INSPIRATION TO ACTIVISM is the perfect fit for this book that is chock full of inspiring personal stories that had me reading the entire book in one sitting. Although everyone knows the outcome, the election of President Obama, I had to keep reading to see what was going to happen next in this magical journey. It read like a well-paced novel. What resonated with me was how Barack Obama affected and inspired volunteers to work tirelessly. His campaign slogan of RESPECT, EMPOWER, IN The title FROM INSPIRATION TO ACTIVISM is the perfect fit for this book that is chock full of inspiring personal stories that had me reading the entire book in one sitting. Although everyone knows the outcome, the election of President Obama, I had to keep reading to see what was going to happen next in this magical journey. It read like a well-paced novel. What resonated with me was how Barack Obama affected and inspired volunteers to work tirelessly. His campaign slogan of RESPECT, EMPOWER, INCLUDE is such a powerful message and one we badly need today. The book puts a face on the volunteers who worked incredibly hard for a candidate they were passionate about. The story chronicles the challenges of knocking on doors and connecting with voters along with the fundraising events crucial to the campaign. Mary Lang Sollinger shares these challenges and the thrilling victories with compelling behind-the scenes stories. Anyone wishing to enter this arena would be well-advised to read and learn from this book. This story illustrates the debt we owe to people like the author who commit to making a difference in our world. Many thanks Mary Lang Sollinger for your work and for sharing this story. It’s a story that deserves a wide audience.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Mary Lang Sollinger’s From Inspiration to Activism offers insights into how effective volunteers get the job done. The book is filled with first-person descriptions that easily translate into a “how-to” book anyone looking to build support for a cause or political candidate. She highlights problems and the creativity and humanity needed to create solutions. Unintentionally, the book has timely a message about discrimination. Sollinger’s experiences are directly relevant to today’s Black Lives Mary Lang Sollinger’s From Inspiration to Activism offers insights into how effective volunteers get the job done. The book is filled with first-person descriptions that easily translate into a “how-to” book anyone looking to build support for a cause or political candidate. She highlights problems and the creativity and humanity needed to create solutions. Unintentionally, the book has timely a message about discrimination. Sollinger’s experiences are directly relevant to today’s Black Lives Matter movement and her personal journey is touching. Each chapter is filled with interesting vignettes. The chapter on her Indianapolis experience about approaching and meeting different demographics is especially relevant and poignant. Sollinger captures what life is like on the road and paints an engaging picture of her campaign compadres who are people one would want to know. There are pointers on when to fund-raise and why. The Lessons Learned are valuable for anyone marketing, campaigning or fund raising. I gave the book to my sister-in-law who is a campaign volunteer in Texas. The quality of the book is nice with good paper and a water-resistant cover. It is an easy, informative read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Kober

    From Inspiration to Activism by Mary Lang Sollinger is a thorough and inspiring documenting of American History. A history that led to the election of America’s first black president. So many of us were involved in electing President Obama and Mary’s book rekindles those moments many of us had. The first time we heard his name. The moment we decided “he’s the one.” The OMG moment we realized, he’s going to win! And what it all said about us as Americans. How proud we were of our country at that From Inspiration to Activism by Mary Lang Sollinger is a thorough and inspiring documenting of American History. A history that led to the election of America’s first black president. So many of us were involved in electing President Obama and Mary’s book rekindles those moments many of us had. The first time we heard his name. The moment we decided “he’s the one.” The OMG moment we realized, he’s going to win! And what it all said about us as Americans. How proud we were of our country at that time. Mary’s book is a must read for anyone interested in HOW Barack Obama was elected to the presidency. In organizations I’m associated with I often preach that the “how” is as important as the “what” we accomplish. Mary illustrates this approach through the lens of Obama’s campaign with the application of a simple set of principles; Respect, Empower and Include. This principle of REI is one that leads to high performing organizations ... in this case leading to the election of President Barack H. Obama. A fast reading, breathtaking account of American History!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane Cummins

    A truly inspirational read on how an individual can promote civic engagement and facilitate change If you have ever wondered whether, as a single individual, you could influence US politics and the course of our democracy, you most certainly can! Mary Lang Sollinger is an outstanding example of a woman who has successfully done just that! . To be inspired by her, please read "From inspiration to activism: A personal journey through Obama's presidential campaign" to see how Mary freely gave her ti A truly inspirational read on how an individual can promote civic engagement and facilitate change If you have ever wondered whether, as a single individual, you could influence US politics and the course of our democracy, you most certainly can! Mary Lang Sollinger is an outstanding example of a woman who has successfully done just that! . To be inspired by her, please read "From inspiration to activism: A personal journey through Obama's presidential campaign" to see how Mary freely gave her time and energy to support Obama's presidential election bid in 2008. Mary shares many stories along her personal journey, demonstrates how she excited and energized people from all over Wisconsin, her home state, as they responded to her call, and shares great learning from her fund raising events that will help others interested in making a real difference in the future. This book is a truly inspirational read that refreshes our memory of a great moment in our history, the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J Mellenthin

    This is my favorite type of book to read, one written by a woman about her convictions and accomplishments. You may want to add Mary’s book to your reading list as it involves a subject matter you may never have had the opportunity to read about. She describes many variety of experiences canvassing and fund-raising for President Obama in many stories ranging from elegant large fund-raisers with the President in attendance to small town gatherings with local supporters on farms, in homes and one d This is my favorite type of book to read, one written by a woman about her convictions and accomplishments. You may want to add Mary’s book to your reading list as it involves a subject matter you may never have had the opportunity to read about. She describes many variety of experiences canvassing and fund-raising for President Obama in many stories ranging from elegant large fund-raisers with the President in attendance to small town gatherings with local supporters on farms, in homes and one during a Northern Wis. snowstorm. Especially interesting are her accounts of door-to-door canvassing and her learned insights on how to connect with those behind the door and how she resolved concerns. This book will be of interest to anyone as it is a very personal account of her experiences but also will be of great value to those who are involved in her pursuits or are considering following her inspiration.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Pratt

    Campaigns are never just about the candidate but about the experiences that unite and inspire us along the way. From Inspiration to Activism captures both the excitement of spending time with the candidate and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. President Obama and his campaigns were always about us not me. He called all of us to exchange ideas in a respectful manner. The stories about door knocking and trying to persuade voters resonated deeply with me. A spark in Mary's heart helped Campaigns are never just about the candidate but about the experiences that unite and inspire us along the way. From Inspiration to Activism captures both the excitement of spending time with the candidate and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. President Obama and his campaigns were always about us not me. He called all of us to exchange ideas in a respectful manner. The stories about door knocking and trying to persuade voters resonated deeply with me. A spark in Mary's heart helped the state of Wisconsin unite behind a candidate and a campaign that changed the world. Mary's story proves that we can all make a big difference in our part of the world despite long odds. That determination and hope is needed now more than ever. Take her tools, kindness and grace into your community and start making the difference today.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Stark

    If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference in our country, Mary’s book is a must-read. Using herself as an example, she teaches all of - regardless of who we are (or think we are), where we live and work or whether we’ve ever been been politically engaged- that we can create positive change.. With little political experience, Mary jumped into the midst of Obama’s long-shot bid for the presidency. They both won. Although often shy, bewildered, uncertain and just plain tired, she embraced Obama’s If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference in our country, Mary’s book is a must-read. Using herself as an example, she teaches all of - regardless of who we are (or think we are), where we live and work or whether we’ve ever been been politically engaged- that we can create positive change.. With little political experience, Mary jumped into the midst of Obama’s long-shot bid for the presidency. They both won. Although often shy, bewildered, uncertain and just plain tired, she embraced Obama’s “yes, we can” spirit to become a member of the candidate’s national finance committee and help put Obama in the White House. Her story is personal, genuine and inspiring. If you want to become an advocate for democracy, Mary’s book will empower you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barb Christopher

    I read Mary Lang Sollinger's book with delight and nostalgia. The 2008 campaign for president was magical. Reading the book gives one a clear insight into the remarkable campaign that President Obama and his amazing staff put together. Even now, the Neighborhood Actions teams formed during the 2008 election continue their work on social justice and education issues. Ms. Sollinger's enthusiasm permeates her descriptive narratives and anecdotes. Her dedication and succinctly described events make h I read Mary Lang Sollinger's book with delight and nostalgia. The 2008 campaign for president was magical. Reading the book gives one a clear insight into the remarkable campaign that President Obama and his amazing staff put together. Even now, the Neighborhood Actions teams formed during the 2008 election continue their work on social justice and education issues. Ms. Sollinger's enthusiasm permeates her descriptive narratives and anecdotes. Her dedication and succinctly described events make her book enjoyable and an easy, fun read. Each of us can play a part in our Democracy. Whether you are an activist like Ms. Solllinger or someone who wants change, please Vote. It is the greatest personal power we have to make change.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scot Ross

    The author offers an inciteful front row seat to two vastly different parts of the campaign process: the field and fundraiser and how the style and values of then-candidate Barack Obama were reflecting in the operations of both, with the driving mantra of “Respect, Empower, Include.” As someone who has lived in both Madison, Wisconsin and southwestern Pennsylvania, Mary’s tales from the road ring authentic. Given that both states flipped from supporting Obama in two elections to both going for h The author offers an inciteful front row seat to two vastly different parts of the campaign process: the field and fundraiser and how the style and values of then-candidate Barack Obama were reflecting in the operations of both, with the driving mantra of “Respect, Empower, Include.” As someone who has lived in both Madison, Wisconsin and southwestern Pennsylvania, Mary’s tales from the road ring authentic. Given that both states flipped from supporting Obama in two elections to both going for he who shall remain nameless in 2016, strategists would do well to consume as much insight as the can from this enjoyable tale.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dana Isaacson

    Mary Sollinger is well-known to residents of Madison, Wisconsin and beyond for fundraising, but for years she has been an activist working on a myriad of causes in various ways. In her book, she discusses her past and how it shaped her experiences--whether that means growing up a small farming community, running for political office, or going door to door on behalf of Candidate Barack Obama. Mary's book chronicles how the personal is political. She honors leaders from the past, and suggests a wa Mary Sollinger is well-known to residents of Madison, Wisconsin and beyond for fundraising, but for years she has been an activist working on a myriad of causes in various ways. In her book, she discusses her past and how it shaped her experiences--whether that means growing up a small farming community, running for political office, or going door to door on behalf of Candidate Barack Obama. Mary's book chronicles how the personal is political. She honors leaders from the past, and suggests a way to a better future with Obama's REI: Respect, Empower, Include.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ledell

    I really appreciated this ground level story of political engagement. It is the story of a woman from small town Wisconsin who discovered she could make a real difference in a presidential election. She was inspired by Obama and I am inspired by her activism. The story had a good flow taking the reader from large (and pricey) gatherings to the doors of many many people outside of Wisconsin. We learn a bit about the author's childhood which heightens the reality and context of her journey. An eng I really appreciated this ground level story of political engagement. It is the story of a woman from small town Wisconsin who discovered she could make a real difference in a presidential election. She was inspired by Obama and I am inspired by her activism. The story had a good flow taking the reader from large (and pricey) gatherings to the doors of many many people outside of Wisconsin. We learn a bit about the author's childhood which heightens the reality and context of her journey. An engaging read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Wood

    Author Sollinger has embedded her organizing tips into her delightful show and tell story. The reader will get a behind the scenes look at how a movement grows through community involvement, reaching out to invite others to action one by one. Civic engagement can be fun and it does not have to be complicated to be effective. Sollinger’s story of her experiences and her expertise propels the reader to go for it when the opportunity to make a difference arises in life. Just keep the nine lessons o Author Sollinger has embedded her organizing tips into her delightful show and tell story. The reader will get a behind the scenes look at how a movement grows through community involvement, reaching out to invite others to action one by one. Civic engagement can be fun and it does not have to be complicated to be effective. Sollinger’s story of her experiences and her expertise propels the reader to go for it when the opportunity to make a difference arises in life. Just keep the nine lessons outlined at the end of the book close at hand.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dean T.

    Really interesting personal account of being inspired by a candidate, going on the road to support the candidate and eventually hosting fundraisers in her own home. All of the time, work and effort that went into supporting Obama was eye-opening and inspirational. It rekindled in me a desire for more grassroots involvement in campaigns similar to when I was younger

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pat Lawlor

    This is an interesting look back at fundraising in WI starting in 2007 for Obama by a Madison Democrat. She gives specific illustrations and reasons for her decisions, how the event turned out, the amount of $$ raised, and mistakes made. It is a great how to book for fundraisers! I also enjoyed the stories of all the people she met and who made a lasting impression on her

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve Busalacchi

    Few of us will get as involved in the political process as deeply as Mary Lang Sollinger. With her book, political junkies go along for the ride and learn plenty of lessons the author learned along the way. It’s an especially good and practical read for advocates interested in raising resources for candidates and just plain fun to hear about what President Obama is really like.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Andersen

    This book transported me back to a day of hope, respect, intellect and integrity - and ultimately of thrilling success. It is a refreshing escape from the dark days that surround us right now, and an interesting account of the hard work and lessons learned along the way.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ilya Chaus-Hyatt

    This book is a truly magnificent journey told through the eyes of an incredibly driven woman. It is a wonderful easy read. Each chapter begins with a thoughtful quote that will leave you thinking about Life. I highly recommend it and surely hope that there will be another one to follow.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    "This book brings back such good memories of times from the work of the volunteers and how we grew personally, challenged ourselves and formed long term friendships. I hope this book will energize readers once they see the blueprints in the Epilogue and get involved in the November elections. "This book brings back such good memories of times from the work of the volunteers and how we grew personally, challenged ourselves and formed long term friendships. I hope this book will energize readers once they see the blueprints in the Epilogue and get involved in the November elections.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Debby Byrnes

    Ms Sollinger shares an inspiring story! What has caught my attention is how she weaves the honest tale of her own time and place taking her from her local community onto a historic national stage. Truly, a remarkable story of listening to your heart and taking action!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mitch Beiter

    Fantastic book. Really enjoyed the stories and the fundraising tips, definitely useful for a career in politics or even practicing your human relations. Helps put Obama's national rise into perspective. Fantastic book. Really enjoyed the stories and the fundraising tips, definitely useful for a career in politics or even practicing your human relations. Helps put Obama's national rise into perspective.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jodie Rohrer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan B Lipp

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patti

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Baliker

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heather Kahoun

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anjanette Barr

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