Paul Rogat Loeb has spent forty years researching and writing about citizen responsibility and empowerment--asking what makes some people choose lives of social commitment, while others abstain. He has written five widely praised books, lectured to enthusiastic responses at 400 colleges and universities around the country--including Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Chicago, Michigan, MIT, Yale, Duke, & Wisconsin--and been a lead speaker at numerous conferences including the National Education Association, American Society on Aging, Education Commission of the States, National Youth Leadership Council, American College Personnel Association, Campus Compact’s Presidential Summit, a national conference on race and ethnicity on campus, the company meeting of Patagonia Corp., and the Unitarian General Assembly.
He founded the Campus Election Engagement Project, a national nonpartisan effort to help colleges and universities engage student in elections. The project’s resources were used by over 300 campuses in 2016 and distributed to 300 more by partner groups. The US Department of Education made him an invited participant in their 2011 civic engagement round-table.
Born in California in l952, Loeb attended Stanford University and New York's New School for Social Research, and worked in both places to end the Vietnam War. Loeb has written for a range of publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, AARP Bulletin, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, Chronicle of Higher Education, Village Voice, Utne Reader, Redbook, InsideHigherEd, Salon, Parents Magazine, Mother Jones, Technology Review, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Baltimore Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit News, San Jose Mercury, St Louis Post Dispatch, Tampa Tribune, Academe, National Catholic Reporter, Teaching Tolerance, Sojourners, and the International Herald-Tribune.
Loeb's first book, Nuclear Culture (New Society Publishers), explored the daily world of atomic weapons workers in Hanford, Washington. Hope in Hard Times (Lexington Books) examined the lives and visions of ordinary Americans involved in grass roots peace activism. Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy and Action on the American Campus (Rutgers University Press) explored the values and choices of American college students. Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time (St Martin's Press), looks at what it takes to lead lives of social commitment despite all the obstacles. Paul’s anthology on political hope, The Impossible Will Take A Little While: Hope and Persistence in Troubled Times (Basic Books, new edition 2014), was named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association and won the Nautilus Award for best social change book. Soul and The Impossible have 275,000 copies in print between them. The Congressional Progressive Caucus gave out copies of Soul to all of its members and the heads of National Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society gave out copies to the heads of all the major US environmental organizations. Paul’s new edition of Soul, published in March 2010, also won the Nautilus Award.
Because Loeb’s work offers uniquely intimate perspectives on the fundamental questions of our time, it has sparked widespread attention. His writing has been covered by the Associated Press and United Press International, cited in Congressional debates, and praised, quoted, and discussed in an array of publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Los Angeles Times, Harper’s, New York Review of Books, Christian Science Monitor, Psychology Today, Parents Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, London Sunday Times, Manchester Guardian, Family Circle, Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Weekend, Modern Maturity, Newsda, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Detroit Free Press, Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, New Age, Christian Century, Commonweal, Teacher Magazine, Sojourners, Houston Chronicle, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Orlando Sentinel, among others.
Soul of a Citizen awakens within us the desire and the ability to make our voices heard and our actions count. We can lead lives worthy of our convictions. A book of inspiration and integrity, Soul of a Citizen is an antidote to the twin scourges of modern life--powerlessness and cynicism. In his evocative style, Paul Loeb tells moving stories of ordinary Americans who have found unexpected fulfillment in social involvement. Through their example and Loeb's own wise and powerful lessons, we are compelled to move from passivity to participation. The reward of our action, we learn, is nothing less than a sense of connection and purpose not found in a purely personal life. Soul of a Citizen has become the handbook for budding social activists, veteran organizers, and anybody who wants to make a change―big or small―in the world around them. At this critical historical time , Paul Loeb's completely revised edition―and inspiring message―is more urgently important than ever.
What keeps us going when times get tough? How have the leaders and unsung heroes of world-changing political movements persevered in the face of cynicism, fear, and seemingly overwhelming odds? In The Impossible Will Take a Little While, they answer these questions in their own words, creating a conversation among some of the most visionary and eloquent voices of our times. Ten years after his original edition, Paul Rogat Loeb has comprehensively updated this classic work on what it's like to go up against Goliath--whether South African apartheid, Mississippi segregation, Middle East dictatorships, or the corporations driving global climate change. Without sugarcoating the obstacles, these stories inspire the hope to keep moving forward. Think of this book as a conversation among some of the most visionary and eloquent voices of our times--or any time: Contributors include Maya Angelou, Diane Ackerman, Marian Wright Edelman, Wael Ghonim, Václav Havel, Paul Hawken, Seamus Heaney, Jonathan Kozol, Tony Kushner, Audre Lorde, Nelson Mandela, Bill McKibben, Bill Moyers, Pablo Neruda, Mary Pipher, Arundhati Roy, Dan Savage, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Cornel West, Terry Tempest Williams, and Howard Zinn.
“With television, 174 radio stations, and such speakers this year as President Clinton, President Aristide, George Stephanopolous, Ken Burns and Gerry Adams, the City Club is accustomed to having the most provocative programs. Your presentation certainly fit that description...you did a magnificent job.”
Steven Smith, Board Chair City Club Forum, City Club of Cleveland
"Thank you so much for your visit to our campus. Our students were so inspired they visited my office at 8:00am on a Friday morning following your visit! They not only wanted to investigate ways to be more involved, they came prepared with their own list of ideas that they had been discussing all night with each other."
Barbara Fuller, Educational Foundations and Leadership, Northeastern Oklahoma University, Tallequah, OK
“Your presence here has nurtured actions and attitudes that will have wide-ranging ripple effects. You’ve clearly touched many lives. Your faculty workshop on fostering student engagement was a wonderful conversation, and you were the perfect person to lead it.”
Jackie Schmidt-Posner, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University
“You spoke to 2,500 students at our Fall 2012 convocation, then continued to interact with students and faculty throughout the day. Your message that one person can make a difference helped us all think about ways we can be part of solving our country’s problems rather than taking a seat on the sidelines. You helped us think about civic engagement in new ways.”
Kristin Douglas, Associate Dean of Curriculum, Augustana College, Rock Island Illinois
"You are a true story-teller, spreading stories of social change. The stories of world-renowned change makers you shared reminded us of our power to change the realities we face and inspired us to keep having hope. Thank you for coming to Greece at such a difficult time."
Alexandra Stratou, TEDxAthens 2012, Human Grid Executive Producer
“Without doubt, your talks were one of the most outstanding series of events that I have experienced during my 15 years at this university.”
John Clark, Philosophy Professor, Loyola of New Orleans
“Thank you for a great presentation. Your remarks were substantive and provocative, in a word, terrific. The audience represented almost a million students in higher education. It was wonderful that so many had read your book and thus were able to put your remarks in a broader context.”
George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, after keynote talk to their annual Provost’s conference.
"Paul Loeb spoke to a series of packed and rich events in October 2012. Paul has a way of crafting and presenting concepts that illustrate the process behind social change, and the role that ordinary individuals play. Loeb’s presentation of this process helped our students better explore their own souls and how they could act on their own convictions."
Lane Perry, Ph.D, director Center for Service Learning, Western Carolina University
"Thank you for your inspiring speech at our Fall 2011 opening convocation. You got a standing ovation from 600 students, faculty and administrators. Your words will have a lasting and positive impact on the entire Merrimack College community for years to come."
Josephine Modica-Napolitano, interim Provost, Merrimack College, Andover MA
“You spoke to 6,000 people in our morning and afternoon commencement ceremonies, getting a standing ovation each time. Fort Lewis is a different and better place after your address. You left our faculty and students inspired and with renewed dedication to civic engagement.”
President Brad Bartel, Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO
“Paul Loeb is the only lecturer we've had in my five years who received a standing ovation from an audience of over 600 students, faculty and community members. This was a result of his ability to connect passionately students, in a way that engages them in a conversation about civic commitment and activism that is meaningful to them.”
Dr. Olivia Collins, Coordinator, Lou Douglas Public Issues Lecture Series, Kansas State University
“Paul Loeb was a wonderful addition to our International Honors Institute. He truly engaged our students with his presentation about the importance of getting involved with something greater than themselves to make a difference in their communities and in the world. It was exactly the message we hoped he would convey as our students develop and implement Honors in Action activities on campus and in their communities as part of the Phi Theta Kappa experience.” They brought Paul back again for their national conference, to an equally enthusiastic response.
Susan Edwards, Dean of Academic Affairs, Phi Theta Kappa community college honors society, after a standing ovation.
“Thank you for keynoting our 2012 Bonner Summer Leadership Institute. Your presentation and stories were inspiring, and important. We look forward to continuing to work with you on student voter involvement and social justice.”
Ariane Hoy, Senior Program Office, Bonner Foundation
“Paul Loeb got a standing ovation from 1200 people in closing our national conference. His presentation was inspiring! Paul gives great examples that speak to the concerns and needs of educators, and does a great job promoting the democracy of public schools.”
Kathie Zurfluh, National Education Association, national board member
“Your presentation was wonderful. You provided excellent insight into the students with whom we work. Others commented on your thorough interviews and engaging style. Thank you for giving us information which can only improve our work.”
Maureen Keefe, Chair Featured Speakers Committee, American College Personnel Association/NASPA joint conference.
“Your passion and voice added so much to our conference.”
Jim Kielsmeier, President, National Youth Leadership Council
“We were extremely pleased. Filled with insight into the generation next in line for leadership roles your presentation was of great interest to our all-company meeting.”
Michael Dunn, assistant to the President, Patagonia Corporation
“Your keynote presentation was great. Your vision for what America can become and sense of how to cure current social ills offered each of us an opportunity to examine our own commitments and connect education with community efforts.” Audience included college presidents, service-learning coordinators, and a dozen state superintendents of education.
Terry Pickeral, Center for Learning & Citizenship, Education Commission of the States
“Paul Loeb is a dynamic speaker whose stories engage students in thinking about social activism and civic involvement. He is passionate and provocative and relishes opportunities to listen to students.”
Tom Flynn, President, Millikin University, after talk to 1200-person convocation and to senior capstone courses reading Soul of a Citizen.
“Thank you for being part of the Critical Patriotism forum that opened our national meeting. You made a convincing case that education without active citizenship is not enough, especially now when the stakes are so high and our responsibilities to our communities so clear. You gave people hope that their individual and collective acts not only can make a difference—but are essential to a robust democracy."
Caryn McTighe Musil, Vice President, Diversity, Democracy, and Global Initiatives, Association of American Colleges and Universities
“Paul Loeb got a standing ovation keynoting our Engineers Without Borders-USA International Conference. He helped our engineers become ‘agents of change,’ challenging them to become greater activists in building a more sustainable world.”
Dianne Shanks, Deputy Executive Director, EWB-USA
“Your week-long workshop was simply tremendous. You challenged us to think in new ways, inspired us to act for issues we believe in, showed us how to remove the barriers to our own involvement. You made it seem doable for us to work at improving the state of the earth.”
Abram Kaplan, director, Environmental Studies, Denison University, Granville, OH.
“In this politically conservative state...I was amazed that the small group question and answer session following your lecture lasted for three hours...Clearly the students were very stirred by your message.”
Marjorie Wheeler, Honors College Coordinator, Univ of Southern Mississippi
“Thank you for offering our students such rich exposure to the topic of citizen involvement. I’ve talked with as many as possible from all over the political spectrum about their reactions to your lecture and workshops. Every one seemed energized. You reaffirmed their hope that they were not powerless, that they could make a difference. You gave them a sense of their power to make change happen and their moral obligation to do so. You told them to believe in themselves and in principles of justice. Your message has never been more needed.”
Tim Russell, Chair, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Sullivan County Community College, Loch Sheldrake, NY
“Thank you for keynoting our Urban Initiatives conference, “Making Our Lives Count.” You were an inspiration, encouraging the audience to share ideas and work on making civic engagement a part of their lives. We are all the wiser for your contributions”
Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (Now Chancellor of SUNY)
Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times — Reviews
"Compassion, intelligence, and thought-provoking wisdom...A new vision for personal engagement with societal issues."
Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"I stayed up half the night reading Soul of a Citizen, finding it a beautiful and morally transcendent work that speaks in gentle words directly to the heart. The new edition is magnificent"
"Rich, engaging, clearly written. An essential book for anyone who wants to work for change. The book will inspire people new to activism, and deals with cynicism and burnout in a good way for movement veterans. Altogether, a wonderful job, a work that's rich with specific experience, not abstract theorizing."
Howard Zinn, author, People's History of the United States"
Soul has been a powerful inspiration to citizens acting for environmental sanity, showing how they can take committed stands, even if they don’t know every last answer. The new edition is even more inspirational."
"Soul of a Citizen helps us find the faith we need to act on our deepest beliefs—and keep on."
Marian Wright Edelman, president, The Children's Defense Fund
"Brims with stirring stories of everyday heroes who saw something wrong, heeded the voice of their conscience, gathered support and, acting in concert with others, changed things and made a difference."
"Soul of a Citizen has been a powerful resource to get thousands of students involved in their communities, giving them the opportunity to apply their learning in meaningful ways. This updated edition is both timely and exceptionally useful to campuses that want to reclaim higher education’s central role in educating responsible, democratic citizens."
Carol Geary Schneider, President, American Association of Colleges & Universities
"Soul of a Citizen has inspired thousands of people, of widely differing perspectives, to take a stand, particularly students. It teaches them how to get past the barriers to act, and why their actions matter. The new edition is a powerful personal guide to get people involved."
—Hans Riemer, youth vote director, Barack Obama campaign, former political director, Rock the Vote
As he tells the stories of ordinary people who became activists, Loeb examines the stumbling blocks—perceived powerlessness, cynicism, burnout—that keep most Americans from participating in the public sphere, as well as the rewards of following a different path."
Sierra Club magazine
"Soul of a Citizen has inspired countless students, faculty, and other readers since its publication a decade ago. Amazing as that book was, this new version is even wiser, deeper, and more inspiring. Loeb has given even more soul to his wonderful work."
Thomas Ehrlich, former president Indiana University
"Without engaged citizens, politics is dead. Citizen activism was the source of this country’s birth, and today ensures its future. To really, truly understand why it’s important for us all to stand up and act, and how to do it, read the new updated edition of Soul of a Citizen, an activist classic that belongs on the shelf right next to Saul Alinsky."
"When my daughter asked from college how to be an effective grassroots citizen, I gave her Paul's book. The new edition is even more powerful."
Josette Sheeran, executive director, United Nations World Food Program
"Soul of a Citizen may well become the handbook for activism at the turn of the century."
"A passionate but reasoned call for Americans to become involved in issues that matter."
"The voices Loeb finds demonstrate that courage can be another name for love."
"Thoughtful and encouraging, Loeb offers a rich spirituality of citizenship for both experienced activists and those just wondering where to begin."
"Like few other chroniclers today, Paul Loeb uncannily captures the thoughts and hopes, inchoate though they be, of America. Loeb is a natural."
"It should be mandatory reading for anyone over the age of 12—especially every woman or man who has traded 'I give a damn' for 'I give up.'"
Stephanie Salter, San Francisco Chronicle
"Convincingly affirms the human ability to create positive change"
"Soul of a Citizen helps teach us what to do."
David Brower, founder, Friends of the Earth.
"Tells wonderful stories and offers powerful lessons about how citizens of all ages have engaged themselves in their communities and worked for a more just world in a variety of ways."
Youth Service America
"An inspiring and helpful guide to working for societal change in these cynical times."
"A transformative book of courage and authenticity, Soul of a Citizen challenges the apathy and ennui of modern life. If you have children, give it to them. If not, give it to your parents."
Paul Hawken, co-founder Smith & Hawken, author, The Ecology of Commerce
"Loeb can pierce a cynic's armor with his practical examination of social change and how it comes about."
San Jose Mercury News
"Loeb writes very powerfully."—Chicago Tribune "[Teaches] what it means to be a caring, compassionate citizen" —Parents Magazine "This wonderful book teaches us the value of taking chances and not being afraid to fail. It reminds us that the more we help others build productive lives, the better our own lives will be."
Bob Chase, Former president, National Education Association
"Examines the psychology and spirituality of community involvement, recounting numerous true stories of how ordinary citizens produced significant social change."
Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Few recent books have inspired more college students, faculty, and staff to get involved in critical public issues than Soul of a Citizen. Loeb’s powerful new version includes even more stories that will engage students as active and thoughtful citizens."
Gwen Dungy, Executive Director, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators
"Written with thought and conviction, Soul of a Citizen skillfully erases the seams between political and the personal. Loeb's eyes are wide open and his feet planted as he examines the roots of disengagement from community—economic disparity, job insecurity and a culture that values profit over people."
John Sweeney, president, AFL-CIO "
A book that should be placed in the hands of every cynic who sees societal problems and then retreats to their private sanctuary, shrugs and says 'there’s nothing we can do.'…A powerful prescription for the cure of the insidious disease of cynicism."
"A call for community involvement and a challenge to apathy."
Digby Diehl, AARP Magazine
"Paul Loeb is one of the finest spokespeople I know for a spiritually based citizen activism. A must read for people seeking to heal our country and the world."
"If you are ready to serve as a wounded warrior in order to bring peace and healing to our planet, read this book and then join the battle."
Bernie Siegel M.D
"A much-needed call for community involvement."
Art Levine, president, Teachers College, Columbia University
"Hopeful, fascinating, and admirable."
—Robert McAfee Brown, Stanford chaplain emeritus
The Impossible Will Take A Little While — Reviews
"Might possibly be the most important collection of stories and essays you will ever read."
American Book Association and The History Channel
"Paul Loeb brings hope for a better world in a time when we so urgently need it."
Millard Fuller, founder, Habitat for Humanity
"Deeply moving and motivating…a plethora of commentary from those dedicated to the concept of a better world"
"A much needed salvo against despair."
"Hopeful, inspiring, and motivating...May well be required reading for us all."
Sierra Club magazine
"For anyone worn down, The Impossible Will Take a Little While is a bracing double cappuccino!"
“A must read”
“A song of hope in these difficult times.”
“A magnificent anthology celebrates hope, guts, and the power of taking action.”
The Oprah Magazine [Lead Review]
“Stunning insights…educational and inspirational.”
“A stirring collection of essays aimed at people who still want to believe that ordinary people can change the world.”
Atlanta Journal Constitution
“Some of the most powerful voices of our time.”
“A wonderful book, with some extraordinary folks contributing. It reminds us that darkness always comes before the dawn.”
Reg Weaver, president, National Education Association