Through much of Mike Bushman’s childhood, his dream career was journalism, thinking he could best improve people’s lives through writing.
After high school and University of Illinois years that included newspaper editor in chief stints at both levels, he decided to learn how the world really works before writing about it professionally. For the next 25 years he worked as a congressional aide, lobbyist, press secretary, investor relations executive, corporate and marketing communications leader and global policy head. During those years, he earned an MBA with honors from the University of Chicago.
Mike’s long inside exposure to government, business, finance and media helped him understand the personal interests that often drive important decisions. He watched leaders succeed and fail. He watched friends and acquaintances succeed and fail. He succeeded, and failed. He also learned how to find common agreement where most saw division.
After retiring from his last corporate role as vice president of global policy and stakeholder engagement at one of the world’s largest sustainability service companies, Mike returned to his first passion with two novels of the future world we face if we continue on today’s divisive political path. Mike’s newest book, Suicide Escape, is a unique combination of novella and memoir addressing deeply personal stories of teenage depression that highlight what Mike has learned through adulthood that he wishes he understood as a young teen contemplating suicide.
In Melting Point 2040, Mike exposed readers to how everyday Americans are affected in the year 2040 if our melting pot reaches a boiling point because of failures to implement the right policies today. Mike’s second novel, Secession 2041, tells the rest of the story of how America comes to the brink of divide, and what happens when it reaches that precipice.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
When it comes to the topics of depression, mental illness and suicide, my hope is to provide interesting stories that facilitate conversations to help people dealing with these challenges. As I try to convey in Suicide Escape, this is a deeply personal topic to me. Even as I was writing and revising the book, sharing my story with people around me provided an opportunity to learn about the difficulties others have faced or are facing.
On the politically oriented writing, I’ve become increasingly concerned that our American political system is structured to favor political partisans over those interested in doing what’s right for America. On several major issues, I believe both political parties are missing the right answers, largely because they cater disproportionately to single-issue advocates and extremists who carry disproportionate weight in primaries. My writing focuses on these issues, including campaign finance and political system reform, immigration, language and several other key issues. Beyond this, I enjoy learning, thinking and, ultimately, influencing others to more deeply explore complex issues.
Why did you write Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041 as stories rather than publish a policy paper?
There are a lot of smart people working in and around government. Almost everyone involved writes policy papers explaining why what they want should be adopted. Adding my voice to this format won’t move anyone. So I write to connect logic to emotion, to focus on what should happen rather than what can be passed, to explore how people might react to the positions we put them in. At the same time, I want to help readers think, care, laugh, cry and hope. I haven’t figured out how to do this in a policy paper.
What makes you an expert on the topics you write about?
I’ve had a great formal education, worked in interesting places with interesting people, and had a lifelong love of learning. I think a lot, having been bitten early in life by a love for this country and through global work exposure to a real appreciation for common humanity around the world. My thoughts may not be conventional, but my hope is that as you think about them, you’ll be intrigued enough to explore whether these ideas should shape your perspective.
You write about controversial topics using characters who have very different views of the world. Aren’t you afraid this will turn people off?
I love hearing other people’s perspectives and then deciding whether any of what they think makes sense to me. I’ve always done this, but have to credit a University of Chicago business school professor for giving me a label for this process. He called it searching for disconfirming evidence — spending as much time investigating why you might be wrong as looking for evidence that supports your view. I’m convinced the world will be a better place if we all do this routinely.
Where can I listen to you?
I have appeared on dozens of radio programs talking about Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041 with hosts from all ends of the political spectrum. Several of these appearances are stored on internet radio sites. Among the conservative shows, I’ve had lengthy appearances on Conservative Junction Radio and the Surrounded by Idiots Show. From a more liberal perspective, I’ve taken part in programs like Ce Says Let’s Talk About It and The Ignorance Equation. I enjoy appearing with hosts from all end of the political spectrum. My solutions often find alternatives that aren’t advocated by Democrats or Republicans, but make sense to the vast majority of people not pursuing a strictly partisan agenda.
On teen depression, I joined the team at OneLifeRadio on their Texas stations on July 22, 2014. You can listen by going to the podcast for that date at this link and going to about the 15-minute mark in the show: One Life Radio Podcasts. I’ve also joined several internet radio programs to discuss surviving teen depression, including Lady Talk Live.
Following are links or copies of a few shows available that discuss Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041:
Man From 2063 with Jack Duffy — Interview on my predictions of future by the author of a novel on what America might learn about President Kennedy’s assassination at the 100-year mark of his death.
Interview recorded August 21, 2013. Bill outlines his view of how America’s policy has drifted in the first few minutes, then we engage in a wide-ranging policy discussion for more than an hour before discussing specifics in Melting Point 2040 for the final portion of the interview.
For more of Surrounded by Idiots, go to ussamichigan.com or search Bill Xam Surrounded by Idiots on You Tube.
As a new author, what have you learned that surprised you?
I have really enjoyed being able to do much of my writing and editing outdoors. If the weather is even remotely decent, I do a lot of my writing and editing outside. The Morton Arboretum is a favorite place to write, but you’ll find me at Blackwell Forest Preserve or pulled up on a log in a national forest as I do research for parts of the book. One of my surprises is how many nice days we have in the Chicago area. From my indoor office the past few decades, I hadn’t seen much sun. If there is a downside, it is that publishing and marketing takes as much or more work than writing. I enjoy writing far more than selling myself or my work.
Who do you like to read?
I like variety. Malcolm Gladwell, Taylor Branch, David Broder, Jonathan Kozol, Dan Brown, Paulo Coehlo, Mitch Albom, Ayn Rand, Tom Clancy and literally hundreds of others have written books that influenced my thinking and, at least to some extent, my writing. Of late, I’ve found Harry Gensler, Irshad Manji, Daniel Kahneman and Joshua Greene to be among those who have written highly thought-provoking books on topics I’ve been exploring for my fourth novel. When grounded for most of a summer as a child (I deserved it), I read our encyclopedia set. Yeah, I know.
How did you choose the topic for your first book?
There are several issues I see tearing this country apart, so the difficult challenge was picking which one to focus on first. The single biggest problem we have is the excessive influence of money in our political system. Every other failure flows from there. I highlight a few of the reforms we need if we ever want a government that puts America ahead of political parties, and people ahead of bureaucracies. However, I decided to address other important issues and hopefully build some interest before fully tackling the biggest issue that could destroy our democracy if it is not fixed.