Great American Think-Off pits love against fear

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 20, 2014 - 8:23 AM

The title for the 1999 Great American Think-Off went to Mark Friestad, left, then a North Dakota high school teacher. He was congratulated by runner-up Laurie Lalko, then a community college English instructor from Arizona.

Photo: Joey Mcleister, Star Tribune file

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Once again, it’s time to put on your thinking caps, if you’d like to compete in the 22nd Great American Think-Off.

The annual philosophy contest in rural New York Mills, Minn., attracts contenders from around the country who hope to be among the four finalists chosen to debate the pros and cons of an issue. This year’s question is: “Love or fear: which motivates us more?”

The Think-Off began in an effort to demonstrate that it’s possible to disagree in a civil manner, and perhaps even move others to your point of view. The Cultural Center in New York Mills, about 170 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, sponsors the contest, which awards a cash prize of $500 to each finalist.

To enter, submit an essay no longer then 750 words explaining why love or fear is more motivating. The essay “should be grounded in the writer’s personal experience, not in philosophical abstraction.” There’s no fee to enter, and finalists will receive a travel and lodging stipend to participate.

Deadline is April 1 for the June 14 event.

Essays may be mailed to Think-Off, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567, or submitted online at, or by e-mail to

Don’t be afraid to enter; you might love it.


Kim Ode • 612-673-7185


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