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
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.
- 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
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.