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    Located in the heart of New York Mills, Minnesota (population 1180), in Otter Tail County, the innovative Regional Arts Retreat and Cultural Center is a thriving center of activity. Musical performances, gallery exhibits, a retreat program for artists from across the country, and arts classes for children and adults provide something for almost everyone, residents and visitors alike.

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Deadline extended to April 15

There is still time to submit your essay and participate

“Love or fear:  which motivates us more?” is the 2014 question posed by the Great American Think-Off and everyone still has time to submit her or his essay (no more than 750 words) until April 15.

This annual essay and debate contest offers four $500 prizes to anyone who enters and travels, all expenses paid by the Great American Think-Off, to New York Mills in rural Minnesota to debate the issue on June 14.  The debate is sponsored each year by the Cultural Center in New York Mills and this year is the 22nd annual contest.

Essays can be mailed (no entry fee) to Great American Think-Off, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, Minnesota 56567 or submitted on line through the Think-Off website, www.think-off.org.  Essays can also be submitted by email to info@think-off.org.

John Lennon advocated for love when he wrote that “there are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. ”  And  poet William Stafford had another take on the subject when he wrote  “What you fear will not go away; it will take you into yourself and bless you and keep you. That’s the world, and we all live there.”

We invite everyone to craft an essay grounded in personal experience choosing to argue either love or fear and submit it to the Think-Off by April 15.

2014 Think-Off question released

Love or fear:  which motivates us more?

The 2014 Great American Think-OffTM releases its 22nd annual philosophy question:  “love or fear: which motivates us more?”  Submit a short essay making your best argument about this question and participate in this annual national philosophy debate.

The Great American Think-OffTM is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas that connect to your life at the gut level.  The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, Minnesota, sponsors this annual philosophy contest and encourages people of all ages to submit a 750 word essay and a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes.

Anyone can submit an essay by mail (Think-Off, PO Box 246, New York Mills, Minnesota 56567), on line (www.think-off.org), or by email on this website.  Simply click on this link to submit your essay.  There is no fee, and deadline for submission is April1st (postmark or electronic date stamp).  Finalists are notified by May 1st and receive a travel and lodging stipend to participate in the annual debate in New York Mills.  This year the debate will be held on Saturday, June 14.

Last year’s contest featured essays by more than 500 writers.  Paul Terry, the CEO of StayWell Health Management, a national wellness company based in Eagan, Minnesota, won the debate and a gold medal with his argument that it is more ethical to compromise than to stick to one’s principles.

The 750-word (maximum) essay should be grounded in the writer’s personal experience, not in philosophical abstraction.  The four writers selected are invited to debate the question on Saturday, June 14th, 2014 in New York Mills, with travel costs, food, and lodging covered by the Think-Off sponsoring organization, the Cultural Center in New York Mills.

Compromise wins the argument at the 21st annual Think-Off

Think-Off 2013Choose the link to each finalist to open a copy of her or his essay.

This year’s question has been resolved. Paul Terry, the CEO of StayWell Health Management, a national wellness company based in Eagan, Minnesota, won the debate and a gold medal with his argument that it is more ethical to compromise than to stick to one’s principles.

Mr. Terry will hold the title of “America’s Greatest Thinker” until June 2014 when four new debaters will contest a new question. Explaining why he believes compromise is the best way, Terry argued that “it’s not just about doing good or not doing wrong. Advancing the good of the community is important.” Terry quoted Thomas Aquinas that true love “is not love of but love for.”

Winning a silver medal as the runner up, Caroline Sposto from Memphis, Tennessee gave a spirited defense for the ethical necessity of sticking to principle. Caroline, a fiction writer, proposed, “Compromise should be the last resort, not the first.”

Bronze medals were awarded to David Eckel, an IT consultant from Clayton, North Carolina (on the side of principle) and David Lapakko, a professor of Communication Studies at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota (proposing compromise). David Eckel (who was the gold medal winner in 2010) wrote “the ethical option is not willing compromise of principle . . . it is instead . . . to engage in the hard work of questioning one’s principles and the equally hard work . . . of sticking to them.” Professor Lapakko argued that compromise “shows a healthy respect for others and a healthy degree of humility as well.”

John Forde, host of the Public television show “Mental Engineering,” moderated the 2013 Think-Off debate. The audience at the debate chose the winner after listening to the finalists’ answers to questions prepared by the Cultural Center and by the audience on June 8th.

The Great American Think-Off is a project of the non-profit Regional Cultural Center in New York Mills, Minnesota. Finalists each receive an honorarium of $500 plus transportation and expenses to attend the annual debate held in New York Mills. The 2014 Think-Off question will be published on the Center’s website on January 1, 2014. Anyone may enter by submitting an essay of up to 750 words before April 1st. There is no cost to submit an essay. The McKnight Foundation and many local businesses and individuals provide financial support for the Think-Off.