Member Spotlight Series Feb. 2020 - Marisa Schlenker

In this edition of our Member Spotlight Series, we're proud to highlight Marisa Schlenker. Marisa dove into volunteering with Democrats Abroad and took over revitalizing our Bodensee Precinct. She's no stranger to political activism and is making plans to get out the vote around the Bodensee in 2020. A former soccer player, she now consults for women's soccer programs in addition to studying at Konstanz University. As in sports, teamwork is fundamental in politics, and we're glad to have Marisa on the DA Stuttgart leadership team. 

Marisa Schlenker

Photography by Mitzi Kesterson, owner at Entrance Photography and member of DA Stuttgart

What brings you abroad? How long have you lived here?

I came to Hamburg, Germany in 2012 after I was accepted to be part of the DO School Fellowship program. The project I helped develop used sports as a tool and platform to contribute to social change and positive outcomes. After spending two months living in Kenya, I decided that I would return to Germany to live in Friedrichshafen. Since 2013, my husband and I have lived in different towns 'am Bodensee' and can see that this will be our home for many years to come.

When you aren’t doing something with Democrats Abroad, what are you doing? What other interests and hobbies do you have?

I study political science and public administration at Konstanz University, work as a freelance consultant for many different sports development projects, am involved in many women's soccer programs/mentorships, and am often chasing around my two kids and now 6 chickens! Not really chasing the chickens but making sure they are fed.

Were you politically active or interested in politics before moving overseas? If so, how?

I have been really interested in politics since my studies in political science and environment studies at UW Madison. I have also volunteered for local elections in Illinois and then for Obama’s campaign. I lived abroad for many years and always tried to also get a hold of the local politics and main issues as well as policies.

How long have you been involved in Democrats Abroad? How did you find the organization and why did you join? (What factors influenced your decision to join?)

I have been involved since September 2019 when we hosted the Bodensee “Meet and Greet” event. I had followed online and was always trying to figure out how to go to an event or meet people, but it only opened up this past year.

What are some key issues for you? Where would you like to see Democrats Abroad focus?

This is tough. Of course, I want a Democratic candidate who is intelligent, trustworthy, strong and humane to lead our country, but I think the changes required are very deep. We didn't just get into this mess without a whole system in place which has really led many people to lose faith in democracy but at the same time realize how much engagement and upkeep it takes to keep it functioning. It is so complex, and I am fortunate to study political science and learn all sorts of theories on public policy, voter turnout and so forth. I am very conscious about the image we have in the world due to not just our leaders but also other decisions being made concerning the environment, trade and human rights. I also am very aware that living abroad puts you inevitably in another space, and you have to keep yourself engaged and active.

With which areas within Democrats Abroad are you involved? In which areas would you like to be more involved?

I am involved in the precinct and overall volunteer engagement. I want to be more involved at the country or national level and then also am thinking of how we should add a citizen diplomacy area to our DA initiatives.

What tips do you have for others looking to join or become more involved?

Join. Do something. Don't wait for others and find what it is you can offer to the group.

Photography by Mitzi Kesterson, owner at Entrance Photography and member of DA Stuttgart

What do you wish other people knew about Democrats Abroad?

There is this central team that is doing incredible work. I got to meet many at a leadership retreat. This team needs support, and this team also wants to grow and evolve, so I would encourage people to think about how to get involved long term, if possible, and also to bring in new ideas when feasible.

You were nominated for this spotlight. Why do you think that is?

I am doing my best-- well could always do more-- to get this precinct up and running. I have had lots of small meetings, email exchanges and so forth, but we need to do more. We have a lot of potential because we know there are members and numbers of Americans here. This award should put some more energy behind my plans and ideas and get me to bring more people together so it doesn't go through me.

What do you hope Democrats Abroad will achieve in the near future? How about long term?

2020 is the focus.

What motivates you to stay involved?

Politics are everything. They are policies made which influence everyone. Not to stay involved would be senseless.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing Democrats today? What challenges do you think are unique to Democrats living abroad?

We are a group which encompasses so many types of people and groups. We want to represent so many ideas and ideals. We need to work together and find some commonalities to push forward.

How has your involvement with Democrats Abroad impacted you? (What effect has your involvement with Democrats Abroad had on you?)

It has connected me to amazing leaders abroad. It has given me a chance to take my passion and apply it and find a vent for my frustrations with the current administration.

Has living abroad changed your perspective on social issues and politics within the United States?

Yes, for sure! I lived abroad for many years, and my perspective is constantly being forced to change and adapt.

Can you think of an especially memorable experience with the Democrats Abroad group or a funny anecdote that you'd like to share?

The leadership retreat was unforgettable!