The Cultural Center in New York Mills proudly announces the four finalists for the 2016 Great American Think-Off! These four individuals will travel to New York Mills this June to go head-to-head in three rounds of debate to settle this year’s topic: Income Inequality Threatens Democracy. Join us on

Saturday, June 11th at 7pm

for the great debate. All the essay entries were read, re-read, and judged by our panel, resulting in the following four finalists (in alphabetical order):

Sam Dennison 2016Sam Dennison
income inequality DOES threaten democracy

Exactly ten years ago, Sam was selected as a finalist in the 2006 Great American Think Off, arguing successfully that freedom is more valuable than safety. At that time, Sam worked in higher education both as a teacher and administrator in Minneapolis, and has since changed both name and location, but not a passion for social justice and love for civil debate.

Nowadays, Sam lives and works in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, CA at Faithful Fools, a non-profit dedicated to building community through art, education, advocacy and healing. This organization is deeply engaged with issues of poverty, homelessness, and now in the face of intense development, increasing and soul-crushing income inequality. So it was only natural that Sam submit an essay on this year’s Great American Think Off topic: Income Inequality Threatens Democracy.

Sam is honored and grateful to once again be chosen as one of the final four, and is looking forward to seeing old friends and engaging in a lively conversation with the other finalists at the Cultural Center in New York Mills.



Kim Larson
income inequality does NOT threaten democracy

Kim Larson retired from a career in mortgage lending in 2010 to pursue her dream of writing. Her poetry and short stories have since been published in the Lake Region Review and The Talking Stick. Kim has completed two novels and is currently working on a nonfiction book. Besides leading a writing group that meets twice a month in her home, Kim enjoys gardening, both flowers and vegetables. She has two grown sons, two married stepchildren, and a dozen grandchildren. She and Chuck, her loving and supportive husband of twenty-one years, live in Moorhead, MN.





Alex Liuzzi
income inequality does NOT threaten democracy

Alex lives in St. Paul, MN with his spouse and three children. After more than two decades teaching students from age 1 through 82, he is now working as a Teacher Education Specialist for the Minnesota Board of Teaching. In the spare time that he does not have, he self-publishes novels, swing dances, listens to the Minnesota Twins, and ruminates on political and philosophical issues.






Alice Obrecht
income inequality DOES threaten democracy

Originally from Wheaton, IL, Alice currently resides in London, England, carrying out research on international humanitarian assistance for the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP). Her background is in NGO ethics and performance, with a focus on accountability. Alice earned her PhD from the London School of Economics and carried out field work and consultancy research in Mongolia and Kenya.





Now in its 24th year, The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by every day 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 debate will be held in the James Mann Center for the Performing Arts at the New York Mills School on Saturday, June 11th, 2016 at 7pm. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door and can be purchased now online at Brown Paper Ticket (click here) or by calling the Cultural Center at (218) 385-3339.