27th Great American Think-Off Winner Argues that Voting Matters

Jennifer Nelson wins 2nd America’s Greatest Thinker Title

The Cultural Center in New York Mills announces Jennifer Nelson, of Fridley, MN, as the winner of the 2019 Great American Think-Off.  Jennifer came out on top of the debate among four armchair philosophers in New York Mills, MN, during the 27th annual Think-Off on June 8, 2019.

During the debate, the four finalists argued their side of the question, “To vote or not to vote: does it matter?” and moderator Ashley Hanson guided the debate with questions from the Think-Off committee and the live audience.

After three rounds of sometimes lively but always civil debate, the audience voted to select Nelson as this year’s Think-Off winner and to uphold her position that voting DOES matter. Nelson defeated Rick Brundage of St. Paul, MN in the final round.

Brundage out-argued David Lapakko, of Richfield, MN, in Round 1, where both contestants were arguing that voting does not matter. Nelson defeated Louise Mengelkoch, of Portland, OR, in Round 2, where both were arguing that voting does matter.

Said Nelson, in the Final Round, “Voting is a so-called gateway drug to democracy, and the first exposure to exercising power and having a voice.” She added, “Voting does not exist in a vacuum. While an argument can be made that a single vote doesn’t often change an election, voting still matters as part of the overall democratic system.” The audience believed Nelson best argued her position, and thus cast their votes to award her the gold medal and the title of America’s Greatest Thinker for 2019.

Nelson is a native of Morris, MN who currently lives in the Twin Cities where she works as a research consultant for the DFL Caucus at the Minnesota House of Representatives. There she provides elected officials with additional research and analysis on proposed state legislation related to transportation, housing, and capital investment.

In securing the most votes in this year’s final round, Jennifer became one of just three finalists in Think-Off history to win the debate two times. She first prevailed in 2014, when she argued that love motivates us more than fear. The other two philosophers to win over the audience and earn the title of America’s Greatest Thinker twice are Peter Hilts of Lakeville, MN (1994 and 2000) and Sam Dennison of San Francisco, CA (2006 and 2016).

For more information about the Think-Off or this year’s debate, please call the Cultural Center at (218) 385-3339 or visit www.think-off.org.

About the Great American Think-Off: 

Now in its 27th year, the Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by everyday people. Designed to bring philosophy down from the ivory towers of academia and make it accessible for all, the contest has received national acclaim including coverage by C-SPAN, the New York Times, and The Today Show.

The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, Minnesota, sponsors this annual philosophy contest and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate. The Cultural Center is a rural hub for creativity, community vitality, and lifelong learning in the arts. Since our incorporation in 1990, we have been passionate about connecting people to artists and rich cultural experiences in rural Minnesota, celebrating the local and being a window to the world.

To get a better sense of the Think-Off, find details, historical information, and a list of the past 25 years of questions and winners on the event website: www.think-off.org.

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