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NY Mills Regional Cultural Center releases 2011 Great American Think-Off question

The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center released The Great American Think-Off question for 2011: "Does Poetry Matter?"

The cultural center will host the 19th annual Think-Off with live debate on June 11. This year the focus of the Think-Off is on poetry (and the broader field of all the arts). Essayists and debaters may wish to address the role of the poet (artist) in society, whether poetry (and art) can be a vehicle for change either personally or in the larger world, and in what way poetry may play a role in the creation of community, beauty, and creating new ways of perceiving the people and world around us.

Successful contestants have grounded their argument in personal experience. Judges of the competition are looking for essays that address the value and usefulness of poetry by speaking about personal experience rather than abstract philosophical reasoning. For example, contestants could tell a good story that shows a firm standing on one side or the other of this year's question.

To enter the competition, contestants must submit an essay of 750 words or less by April 1 (postmark date). Contestants may send the essay in one of three ways: Through the mail to Great American Think-Off, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567 or e-mail to (no attachments) or submit online at There is no fee for contestants to submit an entry.

A panel of judges will select four finalists to come to NY Mills for the final debate to be held on June 11. The names of the four finalists, who each receive $500 plus travel, food and lodging expenses, will be announced on May 1. The audience attending the debate chooses the winner. That person will be named America's Greatest Thinker for 2011 and awarded a gold medallion. The second place is awarded a silver medallion and two bronze medallions go to third and fourth place. Details about the contest are available at

Celebrating its 19th year, The Great American Think-Off is a national philosophy competition providing an opportunity for ordinary people to voice their opinions on some of life's more perplexing questions. Last year's question, "Do the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor?" was debated successfully by David Eckel of Clayton, N.C. Clayton won the gold medal by arguing that we all have a responsibility to help others, but not an obligation. Other questions debated in the past have included: "Which Should You Trust More, Your Head or Your Heart?" (2007); "Which is More Valuable to Society: Safety or Freedom?" (2005); "Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?" (2002); "Is Democracy Fair?" (2000); "Is the Death Penalty Ethical in a Civilized Society?" (1997); and "Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?" (1998).