Weather Forecast


Think-Off finalists chosen

Four finalists have been chosen for this year’s Great American Think-Off. One of these four will go on to win the 2014 title of America’s Greatest Thinker.

“Love or fear: which motivates us more?” will be debated at the 22nd annual Great American Think-Off in New York Mills on Saturday, June 14 at 7 p.m.

The finalists, who all hail from Minnesota, were chosen from a pool of entrants from around the country. Entrants wrote and submitted essays arguing for either love or fear. The final four will debate the question live in the New York Mills School auditorium.

Jason Steck will be arguing that fear motivates us more.

Steck is an attorney, currently serving as a judicial law clerk for Judge John P. Smith and previously serving as a judicial law clerk to Judge Kevin G. Ross at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Before attending law school, Steck was a resident instructor of political science and international relations at Creighton University in Omaha. He also served 15 years in the United States Air Force, with assignments in Tokyo, Japan, Denver and Omaha.

Also arguing in favor of fear will be Paul Terry.

Terry is the chief science officer of StayWell, where he leads client support, program evaluation, research and industry leadership and ensures high-quality program development and delivery. He is one of the original StayWell team members, having worked there since the 1980s, when the company was a subsidiary of the Control Data Corporation. 

Terry, who won the Think-Off last year, is a Senior Fulbright Scholar and recently received his second scholarship to study AIDS prevention in Tanzania. He conducted his first scholarship in Zimbabwe, where he co-founded Shape Zimbabwe, an organization committed to HIV prevention in Africa.

Focused on love as the most important motivater will be Therese Helker.

Helker lives in Pine City, Minn. and is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She has served three congregations and currently works as a full-time hospice chaplain for Allina Health. 

Helker lives in a small house on the Snake River with her husband, Bill, and two dogs. She enjoys reading and can be found most evenings and weekends sitting with a cup of tea, facing the river, reading a good book. She also spends time crocheting, writing and collecting pottery. 

Also arguing for love will be Jennifer Nelson

Nelson is a native of  Morris, Minn., who currently resides in the Twin Cities. She received her Masters of Public Policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in May of 2014.

Nelson’s work has largely focused on social policy and community engagement. During the course of her studies, she worked with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

In 2012, Nelson received the Islamic Resource Group of Minnesota’s Building Bridges Interfaith Award. The award recognized her work in organizing an interfaith dialogue event in response to rising community tensions over the denial of a permit for an Islamic Center.

To reserve tickets to this year’s Think-Off, call 218-385-3339.