NY Mills Cultural Center hosts milestone 30th Annual Great American Think-Off June 10

The stage at the 2022 Great American Think-Off.

The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center announces four finalists from the essay contest portion of the 30th Annual Great American Think-Off. 

These four finalists will participate in a live debate in New York Mills, MN, on Saturday, June 10.

The four finalists are (in alphabetical order): Gretchen Mayer of Mansfield, SD; Douglas McClain of Fergus Falls, MN; Allen Taylor of Colorado Springs, CO; and Timur Usenov of Maple Grove, MN. These four essayists each win $500 and a weekend trip to New York Mills in June to participate in the live philosophical debate.

During the debate, the finalists will defend their essays, arguing their side of the question, “Which is more important to protect: the environment or the economy?” Mayer and McClain assert that the environment is more important to protect, while Taylor and Usenov argue that protecting the economy is more important.

The debate among the four armchair philosophers is on Saturday, June 10, at 7 p.m. 

Kick-off event June 9

The finalists will be available to meet the public at the Great American Think-Off Kick-Off event the evening of Friday, June 9, at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center during a Philosophers & Artists Reception from 6–8 p.m. This reception is free to attend and open to all. 

To celebrate the Think-Off’s 30th anniversary, weather permitting, an outdoor live music event is being planned to follow the reception.

The 2023 finalists bring a variety of learned and lived experiences to the stage in New York Mills to aid in the defense of their positions. The inclusion of personal experience has always been a requirement of the essay and debate contest.

Finalists include Fergus Falls man; Maple Grove, Colorado represented

Finalist Gretchen Mayer graduated with a master’s degree in Sociology and, after a long stint in social work and as Executive Director of the Diversity Committee, found her true calling as a journalist. 

Finalist Doug McClain is from Fergus Falls, MN, where he works as a wildlife biologist. He is a graduate of Muskingum University and Southern Illinois University. 

Finalist Allen Taylor, a professional photographer and long-haul truck driver from Colorado Springs, is a self-described “information sponge,” and spends much of his 14-hour workday considering national and local hot-topic issues. Allen is a Minnesotan recently transplanted to Colorado Springs, where he lives with his fiancé Trish and his dog Milo.

Finalist Timur Usenov is a high school senior living in Maple Grove, MN, and a soon-to-be college student at the University of Minnesota. Timur has been participating in speech and debate for four years because of his love of public speaking and his strong passion for writing. 

The public is invited to attend the live debate in New York Mills, MN, on Saturday, June 10, at 7 p.m., to witness these four armchair philosophers engage in lively civil discourse. 

The winner will earn the title of America’s Greatest Thinker for 2023.

About Great American Think-Off 

Now in its 30th year, The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by everyday people. 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. 

 The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills.

The Cultural Center is a rural hub for creativity, community vitality, and lifelong learning in the arts. Since our incorporation in 1990, we have been passionate about connecting people to artists and rich cultural experiences in rural Minnesota, celebrating the local and being a window to the world. 

To get a better sense of the Think-Off, find details, historical information: www.think-off.org.