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The four finalists for the 2013 Great American Think-Off have been selected and have agreed to come to New York Mills in June to participate in the 21st annual debate.
The four finalists for the 2013 Great American Think-Off have been selected and have agreed to come to New York Mills in June to participate in the 21st annual debate.

Finalists chosen for 2013 Think-Off

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The four finalists for the 2013 Great American Think-Off have been selected and have agreed to come to New York Mills in June to participate in the 21st annual debate.

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They will tackle the question, “Which is more ethical:  Sticking to principle or being willing to compromise?”

Two of the finalists, both arguing for principle, hail from southern states, while the other two, both arguing for compromise, live in Minnesota.

The debate will be held in front of a live audience at the New York Mills School auditorium on Saturday, June 8 at 7 p.m. More information is available online at think-off.org.

David Lapakko

Lapakko is an associate professor of communication studies at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he teaches courses in argumentation, persuasion, intercultural communication, organizational communication and public speaking. He also teaches a communication ethics course in Augsburg’s Master of Arts in Leadership program.

Lapakko received a bachelor of arts degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in speech-communication from the University of Minnesota. His textbook, “Argumentation: Critical Thinking in Action” is now in its second edition.

Lapakko’s hobbies include distance running (six marathons and 30 half-marathons) and blogging (under the moniker “Contentious Introvert”).  He considers the three most important people in his life to be his wife Helen, his son Tony and his daughter Jamee.

He will also be arguing that willingness to compromise is more ethical than sticking to principle.

Caroline Zarlengo Sposto

Sposto recently retired from a long communications career to start writing fiction and poetry. Her stories and poems have been published by “The Saturday Evening Post” and “Family Circle” magazines as well as various literary magazines and anthologies.

She lives with her husband in Memphis, Tenn., where she is an active community volunteer. Their two grown daughters live in New York City.

Sposto has a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in electronic media from Kutztown University.

She will be arguing that sticking to principle is more ethical than being willing to compromise.

Paul Terry

As CEO of StayWell Health Management, Terry directs client support, program evaluation, research and industry leadership and ensures the highest quality in program development and delivery. Additionally, he leads strategic planning and market presence, and provides consulting expertise on customer programs.

Prior to StayWell, Terry was the president and CEO of the Park Nicollet Institute, the research and education division of Park Nicollet Health Services in Minnesota. He also was a member of the health education faculty at St. Cloud State University and Hamline University.

A former Senior Fulbright Scholar and a past president of the Minnesota Public Health Association, Terry serves as an editor of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

He will be arguing that compromise is more ethical than sticking to principle.

Dave Eckel

Eckel is a writer and philosopher moonlighting as a computer and small business management consultant. He is not only a repeat finalist, but is the winner of the 2010 Think-Off debate, at which he argued that the wealthy have no obligation to help the poor.

Eckel holds a degree in management science from MIT and upon graduation launched an optical arts company. He subsequently worked in the plastics and telecommunications fields before founding Telephone Software Associates in 1991.

A resident of Clayton, N.C., where he maintains many of the personal computers in his neighborhood and teaches junior golf, Eckel currently assists an oilfield services company and an antiques center, both located in Houston.

He will also be arguing that sticking to principle is more ethical than being willing to compromise.

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