Lewis Wins 25th annual Great American Think-Off
On June 10 in New York Mills, four armchair philosophers faced off in the Great Debate portion of the Great American Think-Off philosophy competition held by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.
Over 250 attendees voted in three elimination rounds to choose Pamela Lewis of Elmhurst, Queens, N.Y. America's Greatest Thinker for 2017. Lewis successfully argued her position that the 2016 election has changed our perception of truth.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the competition, making Lewis, along with Nancy Krier (2nd place) of Olympia, Wash., Kris Pauna of Prior Lake, and David Shapiro of Seattle, Wash. four of a total of just eighty-eight individuals to have been selected to participate in the Great Debate over the twenty-five year history of the event (ten individuals have returned as repeat finalists, two of whom have been back three times). This year, the four finalists were selected based on essays they wrote answering the question, "Has the 2016 election changed our perception of truth?" The debate expounded on this question with more pointed questions for the debaters.
Think-Off winner Pamela Lewis is the only child of British-Guyanese immigrants who instilled and encouraged her love of art, music, books, and flowers. She is a graduate of New York University, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in French Literature. For thirty years, Lewis taught French at the middle and high school levels until her retirement in 2015.
In the final round, Lewis distilled her debate performance with a paraphrase of John F. Kennedy and her own exposition from his quotation, "We cannot be a fully free society and we cannot be fully human unless we protect our need and our quest for the truth. It is very important for us to maintain our right to determine what is true and to perceive what is true — if that is taken away from us, we are condemned to be free to wrest our right to freedom."