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"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"
—Jonathan Kozol


"A passionate but reasoned call for Americans to become involved in issues that matter."
Chicago Sun-Times

Book Cover: Soul of a Citizen

"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


"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."
Bill McKibben

"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."
—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Soul of a Citizen helps us find the faith we need to act on our deepest beliefs—and keep on."
Marian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund

"Rich, engaging, clearly written. An essential book for anyone who wants to work for change. It will inspire people new to activism, and deals with cynicism and burn­out in a good way for movement veterans. Altogether, a wonderful job, rich with specific experience." —Howard Zinn

Living With Conviction in Challenging Times

Paul Rogat Loeb
Wholly updated edition, St. Martin's Press, 2010, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-312-59537-1  Subsequent smaller revisions since.
Buy the book


With over 145,000 copies in print, Paul Loeb’s Soul of a Citizen has become a classic handbook for budding social activists, veteran organizers, and anyone who wants to make a difference—large or small—in these challenging times. An antidote to powerlessness, it has inspired thousands of citizens to make their voices heard and actions count—and then stay involved for the long haul. Assigned in hundreds of college classrooms, Soul has been particularly useful to get students involved in their communities.


Soul helps new people get involved and encourages active citizens to keep on when their spirits are flagging, or when they feel disappointed with dashed hopes. Based on forty years of his activist experience and studying how people get engaged, Loeb describes how ordinary citizens can make their voices heard and their actions count in a time when they often feel neither matter. Soul explores what leads some people to get involved in larger community issues while others feel overwhelmed or uncertain; what it takes to maintain commitment for the long haul; and how community involvement and citizen activism can give back a powerful sense of connection and purpose.


Writing in an engaging and evocative style, Loeb offers profound lessons on civic engagement:

  • Our efforts can do more--for ourselves and for the world--than we may ever imagine.

  • We don't have to become saints--or wait for the perfect situation--to take action.

  • Change happens little by little, step by step.

  • We can savor the journey of engagement, even though our ultimate destination is unclear.

  • The impact of our efforts will often ripple outward in ways we can't predict.

At the heart of SOUL OF A CITIZEN are profiles of a broad range of people who've learned these lessons. They include an inspiring mix of new and old stories, including:

  • How Virginia Tech student Angie De Soto began so apathetic she spent the night of the 2004 election playing a drinking game instead of voting. She then became interested in global climate change and created a pioneering environmental sustainability plan for her once-apathetic campus.

  • How a Maine housewife helped lead a path-breaking campaign finance reform initiative "so my kids won't grow up in a cynical world."

  • How a prominent British climate scientist who is also a leading evangelical "converted"Rich Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, on global climate change. Cizik’s shift, he said, "shook my theology to its core,"and he went on to enlist other evangelical leaders, like Rick Warren.

  • How a Seattle environmental activist celebrated her hundredth birthday, still passionately involved. "You do what you can," she said. "Then you do some more."

  • How an African American man served seventeen years in the California prison system, then initiated a pioneering drug rehabilitation effort to give people "the support they need, in a language they can understand."

  • How the founder of the leading liberal group MoveOn, Joan Blades, befriended Michelle Combs, communications director of the highly conservative Christian Coalition. How their friendship led to a joint campaign that saved the Internet as an open-access commons, instead of a medium to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

  • How an eighth-grade dropout joins a community group in her San Antonio barrio, helped design an innovative job program and eventually testifies before the U.S. Senate. "The group found some spark in me," she recalls. "I never knew I had it."

Soul’s new edition also includes reflections on Paul’s personal journey, from challenging the Vietnam War as a young student activist to founding the national nonpartisan Campus Election Engagement Project, which reached 750-campuses in 2012. It includes a wholly updated exploration of political burnout, including how to deal with dashed electoral hopes. It includes an updated look at the world of "virtual activism"—and how our new technologies can either increase face-to-face engagement or become seductive traps to replace it. Loeb takes a classic of citizen engagement and brings it up to the present, helping us meet the challenges and opportunities of our difficult time.

"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.”

Thom Hartmann

"Soul of a Citizen has inspired thousands of people, of widely differing perspectives, to take a stand. 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, former political director, Rock the Vote

"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


"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.'"—San Francisco Chronicle

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Soul of a Citizen

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