I’m Barbara Sommer Feigin.  I recently published a memoir, My American Dream:  A Journey from Fascism to Freedom.  My impetus for writing it came a few years ago, when I was 75 and learned of a journal my Jewish father had kept during the terrifying, death defying escape he, my Lutheran mother, and I at age two-and-a-half made from Nazi Germany in July of 1940, at the onset of World War II.

Reading my father’s journal was an emotionally overwhelming, life affirming experience for me.  I learned so much about my

Harvard-Radcliffe Program graduation, June, 1960

parents—aspects of their character I’d never even thought about as I was growing up:  their courage and bravery, the determination and perseverance, their optimism and resilience, and their fervent belief that in America, the land of the free, with education, hard work, and persistence, big dreams can come true.

My parents’ character and strong system of values were at the heart of the way they lived their lives and, as such, modeled my own life experience.   The fundamental principle guiding their lives was to dream big, work hard, and never quit.  This principle for living became my own, governing the three intertwined threads of my own life:

  • The first of a young refugee girl in a German-speaking family.
    Barbara’s immigration cardin tiny Chehalis, Washington, yearning to be an authentic American;
  • The second of a trailblazing woman executive who shattered glass ceilings as she rose to the top of her male-dominated industry, advertising, during an era when career-building opportunities for women were virtually non-existent;
  • And simultaneously that of a wife and mother of three sons including identical twins, fiercely dedicated to building strong
    Our wedding, September 17, 1961

    family bonds during times that were sometimes turbulent, including 25 years as caregiver-in-chief for my husband who had two very serious strokes when he was quite young.

My hope is to inspire those who read my memoir also to dream big, work hard, and never quit.  No matter what one’s stage of life might be, it’s vital to remember that big dreams truly can become reality.  If I’m able to inspire just one person, I’ll feel that I’ve made a difference.

Barbara Feigin graduated from Whitman College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, and completed a graduate program in business administration run jointly by Harvard Business School and Radcliffe Graduate School. In her illustrious 30-year career at Grey Advertising (now Grey Global Group), she solidified her reputation as a visionary thinker. In all her years as a senior advertising executive and a corporate director, she was more often than not the only woman in the room. In 2017, Feigin was named one of the century’s Legendary Pioneers by Grey. Feigin has passed her swagger and hard work ethic on to her three high-achieving sons: Peter, President of the Milwaukee Bucks and FiservForum; Daniel, head of Trevor Day School, a nursery through 12th grade independent school in New York City; and Michael, managing editor at Trellus, an online healthcare start-up.