updated 6/15/2008 4:25:45 PM ET 2008-06-15T20:25:45

An Oregon man is the winner of this year's Great American Think-Off, a national philosophy competition that gives ordinary people the chance to debate some of life's perplexing questions.

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This year's question: "Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?"

Craig Allen, of West Linn, Ore., won a gold medal Saturday after a live audience in New York Mills decided he was most convincing when arguing that the system of immigration and immigration policy is broken. He says it encourages an influx of illegal immigrants and poses a threat to the country.

During the debate, the four Think-Off finalists touched on what it means to be an American and stressed that American identity is evolving.

The debate is held by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the cultural and creative opportunities of rural Americans. New York Mills is a farming town of some 1,200 people in central Minnesota, about 170 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

The silver medal winner was Deana Cavaliere from Richfield, Minn., who argued that immigrants of diverse cultures have created a mix of ideas that makes America an innovative and wealthy country.

The other two finalists received bronze medals. Tom Bailey of Nashville, Tenn., argued that immigration strengthens the U.S., and Nick Thayer of St. Cloud, Minn., argued that it threatens the country.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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