An annual New York Mills tradition is back for its 28th year. The Great American Think-Off invites several finalists from their essay contest to compete in a civil disagreement between different ideas.

This year, the four finalists received a prize $500 and will debate the topic: "Which is more important: to win or to play by the rules?” on Saturday, June 12 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Two finalists will debate for one side of the argument, while the other two will debate for the other side.

Prior to the debate on Friday, June 11 the public will be able to meet the finalists at a Philosophers & Artists Reception, also located at the Cultural Center. This reception is preceded by a Historical Walking Tour of downtown New York Mills, hosted by the Otter Tail County Historical Society and will feature regional visual artists on display in the Gallery’s “Happiness Project” exhibit.

The four finalists are:

AJ Gil (submitted)
AJ Gil (submitted)

Newsletter signup for email alerts
  • AJ Gil of Atlanta is a writer and graduate of the University of Florida and the Villanova University School of Law. He writes about politics, sports and comedy and spends his remaining time trying to entertain his wife and cat.

Angie Stehr (submitted)
Angie Stehr (submitted)

  • Angela Stehr of St. Paul is an administrative assistant at the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Minnesota. She holds an M.A. in classics from the University of Cincinnati and an M.A. in museum studies from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. She likes women’s hockey, Goldie Gopher, going to concerts, knitting, reading and gardening. Her garden has a continuously increasing focus on pollinators, and she has taken to nurturing caterpillars from eggs to butterflies in the summer.

Bill Sutherland (submitted)
Bill Sutherland (submitted)

  • Bill Sutherland of Eden Prairie, Minn., works in the engineering consulting business, including the founding of MinnTech Engineering Consulting Engineers in 1984. He graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering and holds a degree in electrical engineering. Bill earned his professional engineer license for Minnesota in 1978. He is enjoying his (almost) retirement by spending time with his family and in the outdoors at their retreat in Grand Marais, Minn.

Dan Tschida (submitted)
Dan Tschida (submitted)

  • Daniel Tschida of Minneapolis teaches social studies at Columbia Heights High School. Prior to this, he was a lawyer. After law school, he clerked for a justice on the Idaho Supreme Court, a judge in Hennepin County and a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court. He has a bachelor's degree in history from Northwestern University in Illinois, a law degree from the University of Minnesota and an education degree from the University of St. Thomas.

Gil and Stehr will argue that it is more important to win, while Sutherland and Tschida will argue that it is more important to play by the rules.

COVID-19 safety guidelines will be followed at all Think-Off events. This includes masks, social distancing and limited attendance.

Tickets to attend the live debate are $12 in advance or $15 at the door; students pay $5. All audience members get to vote in the contest to decide who will hold the title of America’s Greatest Thinker for 2021.

The debate will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 12, at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. For more information or to buy tickets, call 218-385-3339 or visit the center's website at kulcher.org or get tickets at thinkoff2021.bpt.me/.