The big question posed from a small town in Minnesota this year is this: "Which is more important: to win or to play by the rules?"

That's the debate starting point brought to you for 2020 by the Great American Think-Off, which for more than a quarter-century has been receiving essay submissions from people across the country in pursuit of a modest payout to go with cerebral bragging rights.

This moral tug over how far to bend or break the rules in pursuit of victory is at the core of the current presidential impeachment proceedings and has long been evident in athletics, either with the use of performance-enhancing drugs, spying on rival teams or slyly improving the position of a golf ball that was sliced into the rough.

Essays for this 28th year of competition are limited to 750 words and must be received by April 1.

Four finalists will be selected to receive $500 each, plus travel expenses and a chance to win the title of America's Greatest Thinker at this year's annual debate June 13 in New York Mills, a rural farm and manufacturing town in west-central Minnesota.

Essays can be submitted online at, by e-mail to, or by mail to Great American Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567. Finalists will be announced May 1. For additional details, visit or call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339.

Sponsored by the Cultural Center of New York Mills, the Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by everyday people, designed to make philosophy accessible to all.

Previous debate questions have included, "Does technology free us or trap us?" and "Which is more dangerous, science or religion?"