From the “New Miami,” to learning American Politics, to Living a Dog’s Life….

You missed a great hour if you didn’t make it to our Miracle Mile Toastmasters meeting.  There were 2 marvelous prepared speeches, and innovative Table Topics questions. We learned one of our members won an award at her company’s “boot camp” training, another Award Winning Toastmaster will be off to London to continue her career there, and OMG, if Alex could be anything else it would be a dog???

Our first speaker, Angela Martinez is a Miami Realtor who spoke about “The New Miami.”  Angela compared the real estate market to the stock market with it’s ups and downs.  “After all, it can’t always be driving upward.”  We’ve certainly seen bumps in the road, but understanding what drives and sustains the market is important.  Some of the statistics she gave were encouraging.  Buying a home can be an excellent investment as a place to live or to rent.  Currently 50% of the homes/condos in Miami are rented.  Miami is the #2 city in the country when looking at population growth.  We have more than 26,000 additional jobs in January 2017, than in January 2016.  Future development looks excellent.  It seems now is an exciting time for the real estate industry.

Our second speaker was Felix Lorenzo.  Coming from Cuba he brings an interesting perspective to his speeches.  He said on his arrival to the United States, folks said he came from a banana country (or republic).  He wasn’t quite sure what that was.  Felix noted that as a young person Communist newspapers were shut down.  Later after regime changes, he noted that many people who worked actively in the former government, found jobs in the new — there was a requirement however — becoming a communist.  Today, Felix is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  Instead he is proudly an Independent.  What he does do is listen to both sides of political discussions and recommends we practice using our listening skills as well.

Table Topics was most enjoyable.  Our speakers were Tu Duong, Alex Moreira, Jerry Bailey, Ghislaine Demombynes, Arlene Amitirigala, Hang Tran and Mike Molina.  It was hard to choose the top three from this group.  In third place was our award-winning Table Topics speaker, Arlene Amitirigala, speaking on WHAT?  She’s moving to London!  Our loss is the UK’s gain.  In second place was Mike Molina who admitted he doesn’t think about others as often as he should.  Our Mike?  Say it isn’t so.  And the winner was Alex Moreira who believes a dogs life isn’t so bad.  His mentor:


Our evaluation team (Chris Mesa, Elena Cobo and Sharon Patish) gave us all something to think about before we deliver another speech.

  • In order to make a point — use examples that are relevant to the audience.
  • If your giving statistics round up your numbers (i.e, more than 20,000 instead of 20,435).
  • Make your ending strong.  Preface it with a comment like, “This I know for sure.”
  • Organize the speech.
  • Where possible use a conversational tone.

Thanks to everyone who made this meeting so much fun.


Cristian Stenstrom was Toastmaster of the day,  leading  a great meeting with a theme of “waiting for winter”.   He longs for cooler weather this time of year, but living in Miami cool weather does not come around often.  Fortunately, he is able to get away to ski in the mountains from time to time.

Our first speaker,  Jim Hartnett, graciously volunteered to speak off-the-cuff because the scheduled speaker was unable to make it.  Jim shared with us remembrances of the Biltmore before it was the “BILTMORE.”  On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, starting WWII.  Jim was 10 years old. During the period following our entry into WWII, the Biltmore was turned into a hospital where wounded soldiers, mostly 17-18 years old, arrived daily and were tended to with the best of care.  Jim and his friends volunteered and were assigned to work the 2 bowling lanes used for rehabilitation.  They were also assigned to keep track of planes flying overhead.

Speaker Two was Anna Kay Lue delivering a wonderful icebreaker.  Anna Kay was born in Miami to Chinese parents.  She told us her upbringing was defined by three bits of advice from her parents: 1)   children should be seen and not heard, 2) eat everything on your plate, and 3) be a doctor.   As a consequence she was shy as a child and only spoke when necessary.  Her mother is the best cook she knows, which made it was easy to eat all her food.  She started pre-med but it was not what she wanted.  She graduated from college and went into web design.  Her brother became a doctor so even if she didn’t become one it helps to take advice from a doctor, especially if that doctor is your brother.

The Table Topics Master was Virginia Wolber who had challenging questions.

1)      Sharon Patish told us her favorite time of year is autumn, not much of it in Miami.  Speaking of seasons reminded her of a time long ago when it snowed in Miami.  The snow disappeared before it hit the ground.

2)      Lina Draney shared with us her most memorable Christmas in 1976 when she spent the night at a friend’s house.  Lina had never seen snow before.  That night there was dancing and food and then bedtime.  She was later awoken by her friend’s mother and led to the window and there was snow everywhere.  What impressed her most was how everything was so silent.

3)      Chris Wolfe shared his mission statement.  Chris said it changes every year but what remains constant is that it should ensure a balance between one’s personal, family and business life.

4)      Cristian Stenstrom told us his favorite winter sport is skiing, which he often gets to practice in Europe.

5)      Luisa Herran told us what season most resembles her. She started out by saying it was not winter because even if it looks so lovely in postcards with the snow, it turns out to be a mess when the snow melts and people get depressed and commit suicide.  However, she can definitely identify with spring which is about renewal and getting rid of the old.

6)      Jane de Cardenas told us her most memorable holiday presents are the ones made by her children because they are so very precious to her.

7)      Chris Nolte said he and his wife no longer exchange gifts for Xmas.  They have opted to share experiences instead, which is a relief to him because she already has too many purses.  He is thinking of a weekend away or longer depending on his budget.

8)      Nick Zwemer has developed winter sporting skills and it is not skiing which he tried when he was younger with his brother but couldn’t quite master.  However, he has developed skills in snowboarding.

9)      Tu Duong told us if he could change careers he would be an engineer.  He specialized in physics,  but wanted to be an economist.  However, his nature is more of an engineer than a business person

1st place: Chris Nolte

2nd place: Lina Draney

3rd place: Chris Wolfe

The Master Evaluator was Tu Duong who gave a great evaluation of the meeting followed by evaluations of the speeches.

Evaluator 1, Chris Wolfe indicated that Jim Hartnett’s speech was a great demonstration of impromptu speaking. Good structure, good opening, excellent voice.  Suggestion for improvement: conclusion was somewhat weak.  Remember to tell the audience the purpose of your speech when closing.

Evaluator 2, Alexander Moreira commented that Anna Kay gave a great icebreaker; it was very personal.  The speech was well structured, great opening, and humor.  It is difficult to bring humor in when doing an icebreaker.  Room for improvement: voice projection (speak louder) and slow down.  Also get rid of notes.

We closed by welcoming 3rd time guest, Paul Massard and 1st time guest and Tu’s wife, Hang Tran.  Hope to see you in our next meeting.


Luisa Herran
Luisa Herran

Andy Newman was Toastmaster of the day.  The theme for the meeting was  “A Defining Moment in your Life”.  Andy encouraged us to think about those times of transition that lead to a defining moment.  What made it happen?

Mike Molina was the 1st speaker.  His speech revolved around a phrase from the movie Gladiator when Russel Crowe said “what we do today echoes in eternity”.  Mike shared an experience that impacted him early in life.  He attended a private elementary school in the area and when in the 4th grade was asked not to return.  However, it was not caused by his behavior.  According to the school, his family was not contributing enough to the church.  It was meant to be.  Had it not been for this circumstance, he would have never met a teacher at his new school who inspired him to get involved in extracurricular activities. Mike wanted to be like Steven Seagal so he took up karate and jiujitsu.  Because of the discipline he developed, he found he had nothing in common with friends that involved themselves in questionable activities.  Furthermore, Mike was able to influence his brother who had addictions to the point that he put his life back together, married his high school sweetheart and is leading a good life.  Mike encouraged us to live life knowing that what you do has an impact on those around you.  Think of your actions as a game of chess.  Any move has an impact on future moves and affects the decisions you make with multiple decisions and outcomes at play.  Always think in terms of this question: “am I doing what I am committed to doing”?  Mike shared how before acting or making a decision, he thinks how that will impact his son because he wants to be the best father for his son.  Remember “what we do today echoes in eternity”.

Our Toastmaster reminded us that speeches are good opportunities to get other to know us.

The 2nd Speaker was Lina Draney who delivered her 5th speech entitled “Urban Life Crossing”.  Lina started by telling us how as a child in the Dominican Republic, she and some relatives were attacked by wild hungry animals that turned out to be Iguanas.  Fast-forward to the present, to a day when she was driving on the airport Perimeter Road.  When you get to 57th Avenue it is particularly a busy intersection.  As Lina waited at the intersection she witnessed an Iguana crossing.  Lina explained in fine detail and with gestures how the Iguana moved.  Her description was so vivid we felt like we were there watching this event alongside Lina.  She also told us how after the Iguana decided to turn back after having crossed and how a crow flew down and fluttered around the Iguana and then just left.  Lina never understood what that was all about.  However, as far as Lina could tell the Iguana was safe and out of harm’s way.  Lina was amazed at how much you miss.  As she looked around, everyone that was in their car waiting for the light to turn were busy looking down at their cell phones missing all the excitement.

The Table Topics Master of the day was Jason Hesch.  Jason’s questions were challenging.  The contestants were witty and all had good answers.

  1. Diane Saavedra, our latest Toastmaster, told us how her favorite book as a child was “Who Moved My Cheese” and gave us a quick summary
  2. Virginia Wolber told us that if she won $100,000 that couldn’t be spent on her, she would donate it to cancer treatment for someone who couldn’t afford it
  3. Felix Lorenzo had no opinion on one of the candidates running for President.  That is why he registered as Independent because he doesn’t trust Republicans or Democrats.  They are either too much to the right or too much to the left.  Politicians need to be clear, not promise what they can’t deliver.  All one can do is wish for the best.
  4. Jennifer Garcia was asked to give reasons why Donald Trump should be elected.  Jennifer emphatically replied, “DO NOT ELECT DONALD TRUMP”.  She begged both Republicans and Democrats to heed her cry.
  5. Jim Harnett told us how he would design a self-driving car.  Jim explained how the car would not have a key. The minute you walk onto the driveway the doors open automatically.  The car also parallel parks automatically.  All of this is controlled by your cell phone.  The best part is that this is the biggest hoax and all for $10,000.00


1st place: Jim Harnett

2nd place: Felix Lorenzo

3rd place: Jennifer Garcia

The Master Evaluator was Luisa Herran who went on to give feedback on the meeting and speech Evaluators.  She commended the Toastmaster for running such a fine meeting and for explaining the mechanics of the meeting.  She also appreciated the thought provoking theme.  Luisa mentioned how both Evaluators gave excellent evaluations.  Andres Corral evaluated Mike Molina’s speech.  This was Andres’ first evaluation.  Jerry Bailey evaluated Lina Draney’s theme.  A particular area for improvement is to time your speeches adequately so you are not rushed at the end trying to wrap things up.

New Evaluators are encouraged to use the manual to follow the guidelines, which translates into a thorough evaluation.

We welcomed  our guest George de Cardenas and our new member, Diane Saavedra.


Toastmaster, Andres del Corral gave his third speech, a pitch to prospective buyers for space at 396 Alhambra.  This Class A Office Building has closed most of the 286,000 square feet of office space, with long-term leases.  There are two towers, the North Tower having a domed gazebo overlooking Coral Gables.  Next to the fountain is the fabulous Chocolate Fashion, providing elegant cuisine from their artisanal bakery and restaurant.  The ground floor has a life fitness complex which provides organic food as well as exercise.  Of particular interest to our club  members is the fact both Towers have been awarded LEED certification and are “green” buildings.  Andres has been involved with selling space at this site since it was in first under construction.  With little office space left, one can obtain space at Class B rates ($35 – $37 per square foot).  Andres is eager to find executives looking for premier space.  Once all is sold, he starts on the next complex that is still in the planning stages.  Andres sales presentation was right on target.

Do you like to live a life of uncertainty?  Imagine not being able to find parts for your car, or your appliances.  What would it be like to have an office, but no paper, no pens, no computers, no equipment?  That is Caracas today.  A once idyllic city, Caracas now lacks safety, security, food.  Our second speaker, Ghislaine Demombynes, just returned from Venezuela.  She recalled her odyssey when attempting to buy groceries.  There are government regulated markets — where products are limited or unavailable; or the market place, where products are overpriced and unaffordable.  When she went shopping there was a huge line, so she decided to come back.  When she returned, there was nothing.  Then, she had to wait till the next time she could go shopping (there are only certain days you can shop).  This time she waited.  She needed oil and soap.  She got flour and chicken.  You get what they have.  There are people who will stand in line for you, of course they must be paid as well.  A city which was vibrant and exciting, is now wracked by uncertainty, murder, kidnapping, and run by a corrupt government.  Could this happen here?  Ghislaine believes it could happen anywhere.   She believes we must all be vigilant and listen to politicians.  What are they really saying?  Is it credible?  We must all be watchful, and careful.

Leisha John, our Table Topics Master had questions revolving around these Dog Days of summer.  Our winners were: 3rd place, Sharon Patish, who suffers road rage; 2nd place, Jason Hesch who loves hot dogs; and our big winner Mike Molina, who advised us not to go to Italy in July (no air conditioning).

Our Evaluation Team, Jim Hartnett, Lina Draney and Tu Duong, gave us all something to think about.

  1.  Watch those false starts.
  2. Reinforce main points.
  3. During Table Topics, look at all of the audience.
  4. Make sure your presenter has your introduction.

Before closing the meeting, we welcomed our newest member Sylvia Do Pico.  We wish here a great journey in Toastmasters.  We also welcomed the following guests:  Ricardo Vegas and Alex Hartnett.  We also welcomed back, Raj Narayan, Yoanny Alvarez, and Dianne Saavedra-Corradi.  Hope to see you all again soon.