Deadline: April 1, 2023

About the competition

The Great American Think-Off 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, sponsors this annual philosophy contest.

People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to submit an essay of no more than 750 words for a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes and participate in the live debate to ultimately answer the question, determined by audience vote.

The question is released each year on January 1st.  Essays are then accepted through April 1st (postmark or electronic date stamp), with the finalists announced May 1st.  The debate is held each year on the second Saturday in June.

Writers are encouraged to ground their essays in personal experience rather than philosophical abstraction. Each year, four writers will be selected as finalists and invited to debate the question on the second Saturday in June in New York Mills, MN. Costs for winners’ travel, food, and lodging will be covered by the Cultural Center.

Competition guidelines

  • Entrants should take a strong stand, basing their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction.
  • Please note, while the demographic information below is required, entrants are judged on essay content only, with all personal information redacted before being reviewed by the judging committee.
  • The deadline for submitting an essay is April 1.  Finalists will be announced May 1. The 29th annual live debate will be held in New York Mills, Minnesota on Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 7PM.
  • Get tickets to attend the live debate here.
  • Submit your essay here.
VoW Research
Author: VoW Research

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