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Compromise or principles Think-Off question theme

Published 10:10am Wednesday, January 2, 2013 Updated 12:13pm Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 21st annual Great American Think-Off announces its question for 2013: “Which is more ethical: sticking to your principles or being willing to compromise?”

The Great American Think-Off is a philosophy contest for everyone, and it annually awards cash prizes of $500 each to four finalists whose essays are selected from writings submitted from anywhere in North America.

The 750-word (maximum) essay should be grounded in the writer’s personal experience, not in philosophical abstraction. The four writers selected are invited to debate the question on Saturday, June 8th, 2013 in New York Mills, with travel costs, food, and lodging covered by the Think-Off’s sponsoring organization, the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.

Anyone can submit an essay by mail to Think-Off, PO Box 246, New York Mills, Minnesota 56567, on line at, or by email to There is no fee, and deadline for submission is April1st by postmark or electronic date stamp. Finalists are notified by May 1.

Last year’s contest featured essays by more than 500 writers who addressed the question “The nature of humankind: inherently good or inherently evil?” Adam Bright, a student at Syracuse University, won the argument for evil as determined by a vote of the 450 persons who attended the debate in the west-central Minnesota community of New York Mills, a town of 1,200.

This year’s question seems to be particularly germane to current political and social debates, and many essays will surely use our common national experiences as a framework to address the question. However, the Think-Off Committee members emphasize that each essayist should approach the question from her or his own life experiences, grounding the abstract question about principle and compromise in everyday, ordinary experience.

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