29th annual ‘Great American Think-Off’ slated for June 11

The Great American Think-Off debate will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at the New York Mills School Auditorium. The four finalists argue the question: “Which should be more important: personal choice or social responsibility?” And audience members get to vote on the winner.

2021 Great American Think-Off debate
Finalists debate a philosophical question in last year's "Great American Think-Off" debate.
Contributed / John Borge Studios

NEW YORK MILLS — The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center will welcome all to New York Mills for the 29th annual “Great American Think-Off.”

During this year’s debate, the four finalists each argue their side of the question, “Which should be more important: personal choice or social responsibility?”

The “Great American Think-Off” is an exhibition of civil disagreement “between powerful ideas being explored by everyday people,” according to Cultural Center officials.

“Designed to bring philosophy down from the ivory towers of academia and make it accessible for all, the contest has received national acclaim including coverage by C-SPAN, the New York Times and ‘The Today Show,’” according to a news release.

The “Great American Think-Off” weekend kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 10, with a historic walking tour of downtown New York Mills hosted by the Otter Tail County Historical Society. The cost to participate is $6 per person.


The four finalists in this year’s contest will be available to meet the public at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center during a Philosophers & Artists Reception from 6-8 p.m. Friday.

The live debate will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the New York Mills School Auditorium with a reception after at the Cultural Center. The auditorium allows ample space for audience members to spread out safely and enjoy the civil debate in comfort, according to the release.

All audience members get to vote in the contest to decide who makes the better argument and is ultimately named “America’s Greatest Thinker” for 2022.

This year’s debate will be moderated by Jennifer Nelson, a research consultant for the DFL Caucus at the Minnesota House of Representatives, and the winner of the “Great American Think-Off” in 2014 and 2019.

The Cultural Center is located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills and sponsors the annual philosophy contest and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate. This year, essays came from 26 states and three international countries.

Arguing that personal choice should be more important was to include finalists Hunter Liguore of Everett, Connecticut, and Ronald Stewart of Coon Rapids; and arguing that social responsibility should be more important are Matthew Anderson of Sunnyvale, California, and Blaine Rada of Darien, Illinois.

“Unfortunately, original finalist Hunter Liguore … is unable to participate in the Think-Off debate due to a family medical emergency, “ according to the Cultural Center’s website.

Dennis Nau of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, was able to step in as a finalist and will participate instead in Saturday night’s debate.


“While this was the first time in the history of the Think-Off that a finalist has had to cancel, we have always identified alternates and ask them to be ‘on call’ if needed,” according to officials. “We are grateful to Dennis for his flexibility and willingness to join the debate!”

Tickets to attend the 29th annual Think-Off debate on Saturday are $12 in advance, $15 at the door or $5 for students. To get a sense of the Think-Off, find details, historical information and a list of the past 28 years of questions and winners on the event website, visit .

The Cultural Center continues to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. Masks are not required but are available. Refunds will be available if unable to attend due to illness.

For more information, call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339, visit the Cultural Center's website at or buy tickets at .

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