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Cultural Center announces 2012 Think-Off finalists

Four finalists from near and far have been chosen to compete in this year's Great American Think-Off in New York Mills.

"The Nature of Humankind: Inherently Good or Inherently Evil?" is this year's Think-Off question. This is a reprisal of the question asked at the very first Think-Off, when, for the only time in event history, the result was a draw. Organizers decided to revisit the nature of humankind issue again this year, seeking a clearer answer.

The debate between the four finalists will be held at New York Mills school's Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m.

Last year's debate winner, Marshall Muirhead, has again been selected as a finalist for this year's competition. A poet and writer, dentist and flight instructor, Muirhead lives on the banks of the Mississippi River near Bemidji, Minn., with his retriever, Scout.

Muirhead's poems and stories have been published in, "The Southeast Review," "New Mexico Poetry Review," "Minnetonka Review," "Rattle," "Modern Haiku" and elsewhere. He is a contributor to the Canadian poetry website, "How Pedestrian," and is the author of "Key West Explained," a guide for the traveler.

Muirhead will be arguing that the nature of humankind is good.

Ed DeLong, originally from New Orleans, is a World War II veteran who retired from the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant Commander after 26 years of service as an enlisted, warrant and commissioned officer. He joined the navy at the age of 15 and participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He later worked in the computer industry for Sperry Univac as an automation consultant. 

Author of, "Navy Mustang" and co-author of the musical play, "Golden Slippers," DeLong holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and has won numerous writing awards. He and his wife, Ruth, live in Virginia Beach, Va.

DeLong will argue that the nature of humankind is essentially evil.

Marie Anderson is a married mother of three from La Grange, Ill. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and attended the University of Chicago Law School for two years before realizing that a legal career wasn't the right choice for her.

Anderson's hobbies are writing short fiction, playing the piano, knitting and playing Scrabble. She works part-time in two local public schools supervising grade school children during their lunch/recess and after school. Her late mother was a St. Cloud, Minn. native who married a Chicago soldier after World War II.

Anderson's argument centers on the goodness of humankind.

Adam Bright is a graduate of Brown and is currently enrolled as a master of fine arts student in poetry at Syracuse University. His writing has appeared in GOOD Magazine, CNN, Popular Science, and The Point.

Bright's profile of new age guru Eckhart Tolle was selected for a 2010 Pushcart Prize. Also in 2010, he received the Massachusetts Humanities Liberty and Justice for All grant to create an oral history of the Norfolk Prison Debating Society, a group of prisoners who maintained a nearly unbroken record of wins over top U.S. and international college debate teams from the 1930s-70s.

Bright offers his thoughts about the inherent evil of humankind in his essay.

Tickets for the debate are available at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, at 385-3339, and online at Admission is $12 advance sale and $15 the night of the event. Student admission is $5.