05 Feb 2016
February 5, 2016

To Those Who Came Before Us

February 5, 2016 0 Comment

There’s a client at ExxonMobil – Anita Riddle — whom I respect and enjoy supporting. Even as an outsider, I can tell that she’s highly respected and for good reason.

For years I’ve helped her and her people improve their presentations – their words and the PowerPoint visuals that bring them to life. Last fall, she invited me to Houston where I addressed an executive team focused on Women in Leadership. I shared some proven tips I’ve learned through the years on how to enhance any speaker’s presentation skills.  To Those_v6iTune

More recently, Anita told me about another use of my words, beyond speeches and presentations: how a song I wrote with composer Jim Papoulis had special meaning to her family. I’m touched by the story and would like to share it here,

It’s about a choral song, To Those Who Came Before Us, which I wrote with composer, Jim Papoulis. Here is a project overview from the sheet music (to be published this spring.)

“To Those Who Came Before Us” honors those in everyone’s lives and personal histories whose hard work, achievements and sacrifices precede us and inspire daily efforts to attain our aspirations.   For Jim, these include his parents – Athanasios and Caryl Papoulis. For Mike, it’s Sam and Lucille Greenly.

Written during a time of uncertainty and danger, when military men and women are challenged to represent their nation with loyalty, courage and potential sacrifice, the song was also conceived to honor such bravery.

The songwriters are humbled to partner with a remarkable organization, The Independence Fund, which works to move severely injured American military veterans toward greater independent mobility.

Indy Fund logo newThis valiant non-profit organization helps enable the complete physical and emotional healing of severely injured Veterans … from supplying the disabled with all-terrain wheel chairs and other rehabilitation equipment for mobility again, to hyperbaric oxygen therapy for faster healing. The Independence Fund also partners with the caregivers of our warriors, helping them with the challenges associated with the devastating injuries of war.
To donate: http://www.independencefund.org

I never served in the military. But it’s been an honor to write speeches for Dr. Richard Jadick, including a successful TED talk.  Dr. Jadick is a bona fide war hero and one of the founders of The Independence Fund.Richard Jadick_newsweekcover

I had given Anita a copy of the song (now on iTunes, amazon, etc.)   A few weeks ago, she told me how her 13-year-old daughter, Sierra Schmidt, used it in her 8th grade class at York Junior High School in Spring, Texas.

Sierra had chosen my song for a Veteran’s Day project.  It honored her uncle, Sergio Riddle, now retired from the military.  This young lady created a video around the work that Jim and I had poured our hearts into … and she earned an “A” which makes me feel proud.

Anita said that her sister cried when she saw the video, and that her aunt and cousin in Chile were also quite moved by it.   Well it moves me too, so I offer it here if you’d like to see. My sincere congratulations to Sierra for the “A!”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih9p74ATe2E




24 Nov 2015
November 24, 2015

Always My Angel

November 24, 2015 1 Comment

AMA disc cover pure_400pxv4This is to document a musical project I’m glad I was asked to be part of. I’m a lucky guy to love what I do – from speechwriting and presentation coaching of some smart, hard-working execs, to being a lyricist, with few other real skills.

Words have always been my friends. Whether I’m writing a speech, video script or song, it means a lot to me that I can use them to express a message with a positive impact on others – their careers or their lives.

So here is the story of “Always My Angel.” read more →

04 Nov 2015
November 4, 2015

The Power of Authenticity

November 4, 2015 1 Comment

man silhouette speech to microphone

While writing this, I saw an interview with Jeb Bush acknowledging something to ABC’s Jonathan Karl. A media consultant had recommended that – to “fix” his campaign – Jeb should be … should own … himself.

He should be REAL.

I know first-hand how wise is that advice. I’ve lived my own transformation from a young man unable to walk – merely to walk – comfortably across a stage … to being able today to address an audience of 5,000 or more with confidence and ease … and to help others attain that skill, since I know so well what it’s like NOT to have it.

I gave a speech in Houston a few weeks ago — to ExxonMobil’s GSC’s Women in Leadership Team. I was impressed by their commitment to the development and career advancement of women … in a traditionally “man’s business” of oil rigs and drilling. It has meant a lot to me, since coming home, to get reports that the audience – mentees and mentors of both genders, and at different levels – got real value from what the story I shared … and the “how to” learnings that were part of it.

And now … I was asked to tell my story in the chapter of a book.

book cover_8

It’s the eighth in a series, in which different experts in their fields share the truths and insights they each have learned from life … in order to help others, readers, make positive, life-enhancing changes of their own.

The book in which my chapter will appear is The Change8 … the eighth book in the series. The title of my chapter is “From “Stage Fright” to the Power of Authenticity.”  I’ve lived that story. And I’m happy now to share it.


17 Sep 2015
September 17, 2015

“There She Is …”

September 17, 2015 1 Comment

As a corporate speech writer & speech coach, I’ve worked on many big corporate meetings and events  … for IBM, Motorola, ExxonMobil, J&J, etc. I’ve also covered major events as a journalist – the Academy Awards, the Republican and Democratic political conventions, big computer trade fairs, etc.

On-stage immediately after the show

On-stage immediately after the show


No production I’ve worked on or written about involves more detail, complexity and emotional sensitivity than the “Miss America” Pageant. Thanks to my having written “Our Great Virginia” – now the official anthem of that state – I was invited to the Pageant by Kylene Barker McNeill, the first Miss Virginia to become Miss America (1979.)

Here she is, arriving on the Red Carpet.

My remarkable hostess -- Kylene Barker McNeill, Miss America 1979

My remarkable hostess —
Kylene Barker McNeill, Miss America 1979


And here’s the transformation of the Giant Hall. From this …

empty stadium_1327

To this …

back of house view_1357


As I was reminded while viewing from prime seats on the sixth row at the front of the stadium Sunday night, there’s a tremendous difference in the feeling of watching something spectacular at home and being there live.

swim suits_1377

When Sam Haskell, the organization’s CEO, apologized to Vanessa, you could feel emotion throughout the hall. For many like myself, it was a symbol of our ability to rise up after a fall or, as Taylor Swift sings, to “shake it off” and move ahead to new triumphs. Here’s Kylene, with Vanessa Williams, her “Miss America Sister” (1983.). I don’t know it felt at home on TV, but it was quite affecting in the hall.

Kylene Barker McNeill and Vanessa Williams
Kylene had likened the in-stadium experience to being at a football game with 52 competing teams. She was right!


At the end of the show, I got to meet several of the “Celebrity Judges.”   Brett Eldredge — American country music singer and last year’s CMA winner of New Artist of the Year.


And Kevin O’Leary – Canadian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and judge on TV’s “Shark Tank.” (Shown here with Ian McNeill, Kylene’s very accomplished businessman husband.)


Ultimately, as I packed my bags for the trip back home to my Day Job and to several speechwriting deadlines (I never miss ‘em!) — I couldn’t help but reflect on three things …

  1. the discipline, talent and drive it takes for every State Contestant to have gotten to Atlantic City in the first place.
  2. the support and love that each contestant showed to the others … more like sisters than competitors.
  3. the real good the organization does –
    giving out $303,000 in scholarship money at the national Miss America level
    but nearly $6 MILLION in scholarships when national, state and local awards are combined.
    THAT is life-changing for many, many young women.

It was a privilege to be there in person, especially in the “invited guest” status I enjoyed. And it was an eye-opener to experience, first-hand, the human dynamo that is Kylene Barker McNeill.

13 Sep 2015
September 13, 2015

Miss America Broadcast 2016

September 13, 2015 0 Comment

Here we go!  ABC TV 9pm Eastern

mike tux mao