As the Great American Think-Off committee gathered to select a question for the 2024 debate competition, the group discussed a broad range of topics, including some suggestions gathered from audience members at the 2023 debate.

In the end, the committee selected what they believe to be a question that is both timely and timeless: timely in that it addresses current events such as college administrators wrestling with free speech guidelines, as well as the more timeless philosophical idea that all freedoms come with some sort of cost.

Though this may not be a simple yes or no question, for this philosophical contest, you must choose a side. Entrants should take a strong stand, basing their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction.

For 31 years we have used civil discourse as a tool to publicly explore ideas and critical thinking in rural America, and we want to hear from YOU to help us continue this important tradition. Submit an essay of 750 words or less by April 1 for your chance to win $500 and argue your position in front of a live audience in June.

Each year, the Think-Off question is announced on January 1, essays are due April 1, finalists are announced May 1, and the live debate between the top four finalists takes place on the second Saturday in June. 

The 2024 debate will be held on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in New York Mills, Minnesota.

Not a writer, or can’t choose a side? Come join us in the audience and help pick the winner instead! All are welcome to attend the great debate on Saturday, June 8, 2024, and cast your vote to help determine the answer to this year’s question and name “America’s Greatest Thinker” for 2024!

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door; student tickets are $5. Become a supporting member of the Cultural Center for as little as $30 for an annual membership and receive a FREE ticket to attend the Think-Off!

Get Tickets to Attend the 2024 Great American Think-Off! >

To learn more about the Think-Off…

Click here for the past 30 years of Think-Off questions & answers

Click here to learn more about the Think-Off

Click here to see past media coverage of the Think-Off

Click here to check out a documentary about the Great American Think-Off


Submit your essay!


Questions? Call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339 or email us at

This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through an operating support grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.