Every year, rural New York Mills, Minnesota (population 1,199) hosts a philosophy competition for everyday Americans. Four different people from around the country debate in front of the citizens of this west central Minnesota town, answering questions like “Does Life Have Meaning?”, “Does Technology Free Us or Trap Us?", and "What has more of an impact on shaping one’s life: success or failure?” The “Great American Thinker” is chosen by vote in the high school auditorium.
The New York Mills Cultural Center, which hosts the debate, encourages writers "to ground their essays in personal experience rather than philosophical abstraction". Past contestants have included a truck driver, an assembly line worker, a stay-at-home mom, and a prisoner on death row.
"The Great American Think Off" is a new documentary about a small town with lots of big ideas.
Directed by Nik Nerburn: TRT 55:35 (2019)