Competitors Face Off In 25th Annual Great American Think-Off
Four “armchair philosophers” faced off in the Grate Debate portion of the Great American Think-Off philosophy competition held by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.
On Saturday, over 250 attendees voted in three elimination rounds to choose Pamela Lewis of Elmhurst, Queens, NY as 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, with 88 individuals participating over the history of the event. Ten people have returned as repeat finals, two of which have been back three times so far.
There were three runner ups including: 2nd place Nancy Krier of Olympia, WA; 3rd place Kris Pauna of Prior Lake, MN; 4th place David Shapiro of Seattle, WA. 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.
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.
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.