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Has the 2016 election changed our perception of the truth? Hmmm...

I've been connected with the Cultural Center in New York Mills since John Davis came to town in the 80's and began it. We volunteers sanded, peeled lath and plaster, painted, and managed to get the old Karvonen building into shape enough that funding for the rest of what has happened there began flowing in.

Visiting artists come from all over, and bring their talents to town and to events, as they have ever since the beginning. It employs people. It brings people. It entertains people. It sells stuff to people.

And I know for a fact that several people and families have moved to New York Mills because of the energy that the Cultural Center brings to town. Last night was the 25th Great American Think Off. The question up for debate: "Has the 2016 election changed our perception of the truth?"

Yes, it did. Or, no it did not. Yes was Pamela Lewis from New York City, and Kris Pauna, originally from New York Mills. They went head to head for the first round, in order to select one of them for the final round, and although Chris brought a hometown friendly air of solid thought to the podium, Pamela's consistent preparation knocked him out of the competition.

Next was David Shapiro, from Washington state, going up against Nancy Krier, originally from Wadena, now also from Washington state—both arguing that no, the election did not change our perception of truth. David's smile and familiar use of examples and quotations was not enough. Nancy's solid stream of thought and presentation was too much, and she won her way to the final round.

Now it's the two women into the final, yes against no. In the past, I have moderated this event for 15 years, so I've seen some good contestants bring some good argument to the stage, but I don't remember two tougher finalists so equally convincing. Ever. Nancy brought her lawyer's firm sense of question-and-answer to the podium; Pamela brought her teacher's ability to use examples from history and New York City's subway system.

And it was close. You know, when the Think Off Committee invited me to moderate this 25-year event, I asked what the question was. I was told. But all I heard was the word "truth." Hmmmmm. Truth and I have had a rocky relationship, and in fact, there are many Sunday nights, when I email what I've written off to the newspapers, that truth and I go through divorce proceedings. A famous quotation by Mark Twain has always been my guiding light: Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. And they want me to moderate a debate on truth? I asked if they were really, really sure I was the guy for this.

I was, it turns out. As Yes and No each fielded their questions that night in front of over 200 people, it seemed a bit like Yes—Pamela—was becoming more and more fluid and focused in her answers. I was later to find that I wasn't the only one who thought that. And yet. No—Nancy-- was doing a good job also, using solid word bites like "fake news" and "media fact checking" and "alternative facts." After four debate questions each, it did seem that Yes was finding the debate race track a bit easier on which to run.

The final tally was very, very close. And it was Yes in a tight finish. Yes, the 2016 campaign has changed our perception of truth.

It was a great debate. I hope you were there.

As for me, I came away from it, away from the meet-and-greet, away from the luncheon, away from meeting new people and renewing old friendships with a great quote from David Shapiro, who said: "In my family, as regards truth and family story telling, we dissemble with regularity."

"Dissemble" means "mislead." Dissemble with regularity—one of my life goals, but better put, much better put.

Next week, I shall go back to dissembling every chance I get. Why not. Some politicians have made it quite acceptable.

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