DSCN84912016 America’s Greatest Thinker Named

In the 24th annual Great American Think-Off, Sam Dennison of San Francisco, California successfully argued that income inequality does indeed threaten democracy.

Silver medalist Alex Liuzzi also gave a convincing argument, but the audience cast their votes in favor of Sam’s position, and thus another year’s topic has been resolved.

Bronze medalists Alice Obrecht and Kim Larson also argued their points eloquently in what was a close vote in all three rounds of debate. All four finalists are pictured below following the awards ceremony.



Sam Dennison, Kim Larson, Alice Obrecht, Alex Liuzzi

Sam’s essay and debate focused on the argument that democracy cannot survive without equality. Throughout the evening, Sam gave many poignant examples of the result of growing income disparity rampant in the US, and how that disparity causes hopelessness and thus leads to the breakdown of democracy.

In the final round, Sam debated Alex Liuzzi of St. Paul, MN, who supported his position that income inequality does not threaten democracy on the premise that it instead motivates democratic participation. While Alex agreed with Sam in that income inequality and poverty are very real issues, he argued that participation in the process of democracy is actually a way to help resolve these issues of disparity.

In the first round, bronze medalist Alice Obrecht, currently residing in London, defended her position that income inequality erodes accountability and thus threatens democracy. Her supporting examples focused on the fact that people in impoverished situations sometimes make choices that improve their short-term situation out of necessity rather than reflecting on their full range of values and the potential for long-term improvements.

Bronze medalist Kim Larson of Moorhead, MN presented her argument in the second round that disparity of income is not the issue, selfishness and complacency are. She argued her belief that inequalities will always exist, and democracy works because each person is given a vote, and that income inequality would not be considered a threat at all if people simply cared more about their neighbors and community, regardless of income levels. Further, she opined that complacent citizens not exercising their right to vote, or voting for what best benefits themselves instead of the greater good, is the real threat to democracy.

Each of the four finalists effectively argued their positions, and the result was another year of intelligent, thought-provoking, and civil debate. The Cultural Center would like to thank this year’s finalists, sponsors, and attendees for helping make the 24th annual Great American Think-Off a resounding success.