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Should the rich help the poor?

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America's premier amateur philosophy contest, The Great American Think-Off, has released its 2010 essay and debate question: "Do the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor?"

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In writing essays on this question, potential debaters may address individuals, groups, or nations as the essayist determines. The debate will be held in New York Mills on Saturday, June 12 before a live audience.

Entering the competition is easy. Just submit an essay of 750 words or less by April 1, 2010 (postmark date). You may send your 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 jamie@kulcher.org (no attachments) or submit on-line at www.think-off.org. There is no submission fee.

The key to writing a successful essay is to ground your argument in personal experience, according to a news release. The judges are looking for essays that address this central problem of moral philosophy by speaking about personal experience rather than abstract philosophical reasoning. Tell a good story that shows a firm standing on one side or the other of this philosophical question.

A panel of judges will select four finalists to come to New York Mills for the final debate to be held June 12. The names of the four finalists, who each receive $500 plus travel, food and lodging expenses, will be announced May 1.

Celebrating its 18th 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, "Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?" was debated successfully by John Pollock, a civil rights attorney from Montgomery, Ala. Other questions debated in this annual event 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).

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