New York Mills Cultural Center announces 2023 'Think-Off' debate question

Which is more important to protect: the environment or the economy?

Blaine Rada stands at the podium during the 2022 Great American Think-Off as he debates why he believes social responsibility is more important than personal choice.
Perham Focus file photo
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NEW YORK MILLS — The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center recently announced the 2023 Great American Think-Off question: Which is more important to protect: the environment or the economy? All are invited to submit an essay answering this question by April 1, 2023.

This is the topic put forth by the Great American Think-Off committee for its 30th annual debate competition. In gathering to select this year’s question, the committee discussed the fact that a question about the environment had never been posed, and felt this year was the right time.

The 30th annual Think-Off question is a challenging philosophical dilemma meant to inspire thinkers from all walks of life. You may believe that both the environment and the economy are important to protect, but for this philosophical contest, you must choose a side. For 30 years this event has used civil discourse as a tool to publicly explore ideas and creative solutions.

Perhaps you have seen firsthand the effects of choosing economic growth over environmental protection in your community. Or maybe you are an environmentalist who believes the economy needs more protection at this point in history. Whatever your position, share your thoughts, and you could win $500 and become "America's Greatest Thinker" for 2023.

The Great American Think-Off is a philosophical essay and debate competition held each year in rural New York Mills. The contest has received national acclaim and thousands of entries from all 50 states and numerous international countries throughout its 30-year history.


People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to submit an essay of no more than 750 words for a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes and participate in the live debate to ultimately answer the question, determined by audience vote. Entrants should take a strong stand, basing their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction. Essays are due April 1, 2023. There is no fee to enter, though donations are welcome to help support civil discourse.

To enter, visit , email , or mail the essay to NYMRCC, PO Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567. They must be submitted electronically by midnight on April 1 or postmarked by April 1.

The four finalists will be announced on May 1, and each will receive $500 plus travel expenses, along with the chance to win the title of "America's Greatest Thinker" at this year’s annual debate held on June 10 in New York Mills.

For additional contest details and information on the past 29 years of questions, visit or call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339.

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