from inspiration to activism

by Mary Lang Sollinger
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Mary was announced as a finalist in the Chicago Writers Association's Book of the Year in the Independent Nonfiction category.

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 their 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 office.

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.

For ordering:  A Room of One's Own or the publisher: Little Creek Press
The cost of the paperback is $17.95
Use this link:
for the paperback book, an E-book ($8.99), available via Kindle or Audible Book.
The book is also available on iTunes.

About the Author

Photo by Ingrid Laas

Mary lang sollinger

Author // Founder // Organizer

Mary Lang Sollinger grew up on a small town in Wisconsin’s heartland. There were no big things expected of her after high school, no talk of college. In spite of this, she took some risks and became a candidate for mayor in Madison, a prodigious fundraiser and a community activist for causes and candidates she believes in. Along the way, she discovered that only in the United States of America could this happen. This book is to re-kindle the hope that is in all of us. Mary and her husband Hans, live in Madison, Wisconsin.

As Chair of the Tenney Park Shelter Group ( $1.2M, fundraised privately $700k), Mary played a key role in the design, presented to downtown neighborhoods, and lobbied for all the city permits and approvals for a new park shelter/pavillion). The Pavilion is the most rented in the City Park system.

As Campaign Chair for the Goodman Community Center ($12.3M with $6M coming from Grants and $6M from the community), Mary, with a team, defended a Kresge Foundation grant for $250,000. The Center was built in 2008.

Mary created and chaired the State Street holiday lighting program (10 years ago) and the Folk on State concert series (8 years ago) on State Street and secured all the funds and grants, and obtained all the city approvals.

After many months of debate, Mary was asked by the Mayor’s office to upstart a public art process. Within three years, installed a well-received artwork, The Forum of Origin, located off the Square and on top of State Street (fundraised $190k).

Mary served as a Mayor-appointed commissioner for seven years representing the Downtown area for the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center and chaired several sub-committees. Created the Friends of Monona Terrace and led the inscribed tile campaign for the rooftop garden with over 11,000 tiles, which amounted to $1 million in additional revenues for the Center.

Mary served on many city committees and commissions, including the City Planning Commission.

Mary taught at the University of Wisconsin, as a guest lecturer in Retailing for two semesters.

Mary bought out an adult bookstore, which eventually enabled the design for the Overture Center.

Mary started two women’s stores on State Street and remained in retail for over 25 years. One store, The Peacock, was from a term paper at MATC.

Mary served on the MATC Foundation Board for over 15 years.

THE PURPOSE of the book

I was inspired by REI - respect, empower, include - which was the mantra of the 2008 campaign. The words are based on trust, the total antithesis of what the political world is perceived to be.

Respect, empower, include (REI) felt like the non-profit community culture I was in for many years, in organizations with many volunteers who worked from their hearts and accomplished great things. There were no private agendas, no competing, and no planning for a job in the White House. Everything was based on respect, empowerment, and trusting people's objectives and decision-making, with the end goal of helping our country.

I felt these three words kept Senator Obama and his staff out of the "dirty and mean" part of traditional politics. Very few people want to be a part of the old way of doing politics.

Volunteers and staff not only stayed with Barack Obama,  but brought their friends into the campaign. These three words stabilized and built a formidable foundation - it was the reason why he won in 2008. No one ever left Senator Obama. When only a few did leave him, it was out of respect and dedication to him, to make his life easier. People who had gumption to do the right thing for the President, and the country.

Whenever I am on a podium to give a talk, no matter who the audience is, I incorporate "respect, empower, include" as inspiration, a guideline to live. I saw the change it did for me and how it gave me sustainability more energy to do more. I wanted to share this with others.  

As Heidi Wilde, a dedicated volunteer and friend from the 2008 campaign who is mentioned in the book, says,  "It brings back such good memories of times when we grew personally, challenged ourselves, formed friendships, and learned all the time as we were engaging with other like-minded souls to work for our country.  And the joy of seeing all our work succeed! I hope your book will energize folks once more, especially with the blueprints you provided at the end, to go out and help turn things around so that we will live once more in the United States of America, not the divided ones we currently live in."


Breakfast, Lunch or Happy Hour Obama Book Conversations:

Book your Conversation today!

What a time to be releasing a new book!

Necessity and hard times are the “mother of invention”. During the pandemic's health restrictions, we stretched our imaginations. A new, interesting and practical way surfaced—Happy Hour Obama Book Conversations.

Curious about hearing President Obama's legacy through Mary’s journey in the 2008 campaign? Join Mary for an hour-long Zoom Conversation with your virtual guest list! Learn about her time serving on the National Finance Committee and what it was like to get out the vote in the field by knocking on doors in four states. 

How do I set up my Happy Hour Obama Book Conversation?

   Find two dates that work for you, the organizer.
5:00pm, Happy Hour has been a very popular time.  
Invite your guests, your book club, your friends, etc.
We recommend 6-14 as a good number where everyone can participate.
Of course, more are welcome, too.
They can live any where in the United States.
Not all guests need to read the book.
We ask the organizer to email a one or two sentences of the guests who are attending,
so Mary can tailor her talk to their interests.

 Confirm your dates and times with Mary and she will confirm availability
with Carol Koby, the Zoom Administrator and moderator.
Then sent the confirmed time to your network.  
Whichever date has the most availability, let Mary know so it can be put on our calendar.
Send the confirmed date to you group with an email saying that you will be sending the zoom link
the morning of the book conversation.
We use this method because your friends will recognize your name.

On the morning of your Conversation, Carol will email the organizer the Zoom link
which in turn, the organizer will forward to the guests.

It's time for the Obama book conversation!
We set the conversation for an hour.
Carol starts with a "thank you" to the organizer and they do brief,
one sentence introduction on how the organizer knows the guest.  
Carol introduces Mary and she will talk about 30 minutes about certain excerpts
based on the organizer’s guests’ bios.
Questions from the guests are taken.
Carol will announce at 6pm if anyone needs to leave, that is fine.  
Normally, everyone stays on the call and we end around 6:30pm.
We ask if anyone wants any follow-ups or would like to do a book conversation with their networks.
Please email Mary at
for any questions or for a booking.

All book reading events have been changed to virtual/Zoom events due to COVID.
If you are interested, please text Mary at 608-212-6889 or

Mary has given over 20 Happy Hour Book Conversations and book readings for women's groups, book clubs, community, black friends and young activists. She would like to connect with book clubs, community groups, youth organizations who are curious about an insider's story of how ordinary people can make a difference our political process.
April 9, 2020 6:00 PM

A Room of One's Own

315 W. Gorham St. Madison, WI 53703-2218

A Room of One's Own welcomes Mary Lang Sollinger, author of From Inspiration to Activism: A Personal Journey Through Obama's Presidential Campaign!

Learn more
April 16, 2020 6:30 PM

Red’s Mercantile Postponed due to Covid19

224 N Dewey Street, Eau Claire, WI 54703

An evening at Red's Mercantile in Eau Claire in partnership with Dotters Books.

Learn more
April 30, 2020 10:54 AM

Appleton Public Library Postponed due to Covid19

225 N Oneida Street, Appleton, WI 54911

With Special guest Community Volunteer and Activist Ann Muenster.

Learn more
May 1, 2020 7:00 PM

The Pump House (Postponed - date to be determined due to COVID-19)

119 King Street La Crosse, WI 54601

Panel Discussion with community leaders and a student leader following the reading in partnership with Pearl Street Books

Learn more
May 2, 2020 12:00 PM

Arcadia Books

102 E Jefferson Street, Spring Green, WI 53588

Book signing, all are welcome.

Learn more
May 26, 2020 7:00 PM

Zenith Bookstore

318 N Central Avenue, Duluth, MN 55807

An evening at Zenith Bookstore

Learn more
June 17, 2020 6:30 PM

Goodman Community Center

214 Waubesa Street, Madison, WI 53704

Bookreading with questions taken from the guests.

Learn more



"A campaign memoir from an actual campaign worker is rare, even though each presidential campaign gives birth to a small library of books from the higher up insiders and the reporters covering the campaign. MLS gives a look from the trenches. It is a book for students of political science that marries theory with reality.”

Tom Loftus
Former Ambassador to Norway and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker

"What was going to be one became six fundraisers Mary organized for Barack Obama's Presidential campaign. She is a master organizer - energizing everyone, making it fun, making it easy, personalizing each event. I'm not sure how she did it, which is why I want you to take a look at the book.  You'll learn a lot while having fun along the way."

Dr. Zorba Paster
National Public Radio

"Mary is a true example of someone inspired to create change at the local level, and in a short time becoming a major force nationally. I was happy to see the book reflected President Obama's mantra of "Respect. Empower. Include. This is a code of ethics we, in Wisconsin, understand.”

Congressman Mark Pocan

“Sollinger has written a heroic and cultural work of political activism detailing her journey from growing up on a farm, to becoming a business person, ultimately becoming the delegate to the National Democratic convention in 2008. She is Reflective and truthful both in her self discovery and on the most serious challenges of our American Democracy. She reminds us that we should “respect, and empower and include“ as the way to a breathtakingly better world.”

Dennis T. Costakos M.D.
Mayo Clinic Alix College of Medicine

"The great potential of democracy lies in the magic people create when they decide to give of themselves for the broader public good. Here is a story of the extraordinary journey Mary Lang Sollinger experienced through choosing such a path."

Katherine J. Cramer
Author “The Politics of Resentment, Rural Consciousness in Rural Wisconsin and the Rise and Fall of Scott Walker", Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

"Mary Lang Sollinger has been a friend and advocate for years. As a key player on many successful campaigns and political movements, she has a keen understanding of what it takes to win. Her book offers a great insight into the early rise of President Obama's campaign and the impact individuals can have in changing the course of history.”

Senator Tammy Baldwin

“Mary Lang Sollinger's book reflects a deep conviction she and I share—civic engagement is a unique power, and, through action, we can harness that power to effect change. My involvement with the Obama campaign in 2008 was one of the highlights of my life, and this book does a good job of capturing why.”

Senator Tim Kaine

"The timing for From Inspiration to Activism is crucial for the upcoming elections in November. I am glad that Mary is sharing her journey and hope with us all.”

Gwen Moore
Wisconsin Congresswoman

“This book is a mesmerizing, personal portrait of the 2008 Obama campaign. Sollinger captures the magic of the historic campaign and Obama himself, both full of idealism and hope. She breaks barriers, just as her candidate did in 2008. This is a good read that makes a great moment in American history feel fresh and alive, contrasting them with the dark political times we live in now.”

Jo Handelsman
Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and former White House science advisor

"Mary and I share a deep belief in the Obama campaign mantra: respect, empower, include. By bringing people together with the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things for their country, Mary testifies to the better angels of our democracy. This book has a special place in my heart and is an important read for anyone who wants to help our country.”

Steven Olikara
Founder and CEO, Millennial Action Project; political commentator

"I read how Mary Lang Sollinger started out in politics in peaceful Madison with a fundraiser, and then kept piling them on. By the time I got to this book’s chapter about Indianapolis,  I came a friend and indefatigable Obama supporter. Mary had a vision, and fortunately it matched Barack Obama’s. Read her book.”

Edward Asner
Emmy Award-winning actor, former president of the Screen Actors Guild

"A deeply heartfelt, behind-the-scenes look at how one person can make a difference. An engrossing, personal story about how grassroots activism starts and spreads.”

Veronica Rueckert
author of Outspoken, Why Women’s Voices Get Silenced and How to Set Them Free, and Peabody Award-winning communications specialist

"Mary Lang Sollinger is an inspiration to voters at all levels, from her neighborhood to the nation at large. Her warm and stirring book shows why: a profound commitment to living the principles of Respect, Empower, Include. The book shows how campaigning for Senator Obama changed her. The book will change you, too—and make you want to follow in her footsteps."

Ben Wikler
Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, former Washington DC Director for

"Mary has captured the essence of the formation of a candidate and campaign that changed America and the world. She exemplifies the best of what politics can bring out in us: respect, community and hope. Mary has dedicated her political life’s work into funding, training and mentoring candidates, campaign staff. All she has asked in return is an open heart and mind. I implore you to take all the wisdom you can from her story and put it to action.”

John Pratt
Associate, White House Advance Team for the President, 2012-16

LET’s Get in touch

One of my goals is to have a 20 city national book tour with panel discussions before or after the reading.  If you are interested in having a book reading your town at your civics club or community center, please contact me at for the scheduling and details. Let’s see what we can work out.

Let’s get social