Illinois man crowned America's Greatest Thinker in New York Mills

Winner argued that social responsibility trumps personal choice

GATO finalists.jpg
2022 Great American Think-Off finalists, from left: Matt Anderson (bronze medalist), Dennis Nau (silver medalist), Blaine Rada (gold medalist), and Ron Stewart (bronze medalist).<br/>

NEW YORK MILLS — An Illinois man was named America's Greatest Thinker for 2022 during the 29th annual Great American Think-Off in New York Mills.

Blaine Rada persuaded the audience that social responsibility is more important than personal choice, according to the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, which hosts the think-off each year.

Rada based his stance on the idea that personal choices depend on a foundation of social responsibility, the cultural center said. He contended that the cure for most societal ills is simply to be better listeners and sincerely seek to understand others’ perspectives.

He stated, “There’s a difference between having a right and doing the right thing. We have the right to make personal choices, but we still need to make the right ones.”

The debate was held June 11 before an audience of more than 200, who decided by majority vote that Rada made the stronger argument.


Rada topped Dennis Nau of Fergus Falls who defended personal choice in the final round of debate. In the first round, Nau prevailed over Ron Stewart of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, and in the second round, Rada garnered more votes than Matt Anderson of Sunnyvale, California.

Nau maintained that personal choice shapes progress in social responsibility, which changes over time and with different segments of the population. He provided examples of people who used personal choice to bravely stand up against what was considered socially responsible at the time to help abolish atrocities such as slavery and the Holocaust.

The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by everyday 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 cultural center has already begun planning for the 30th annual think-off on June 10, 2023. To get involved, email or call 218-385-3339.

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