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Think-Off narrows to four; meet the first two

Two of the four finalists in this year's Great American Think-Off are Deana Cavaliere and Craig Allen.

These two writers/debaters in this year's Great American Think-Off will debate the question "Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?"

Cavaliere is from Minnesota and Allen lives in Oregon. They are as far apart in their argument about this year's question as in their geography, with Cavaliere arguing for strengthen and Allen for threaten. Two other finalists, Nicholas Thayeer of St. Cloud, and Tom Bailey of Nashville, Tenn., will be featured next week.

J. Deana Cavaliere is a recent graduate from Vesper College in Minneapolis. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Ecological Architecture. Deana loves learning and finds she thrives in the classroom, whether as teacher or student. She has combined her desire to help others achieve their academic goals with her motivation to facilitate cultural diffusion through her work with study abroad programs.

Cavaliere is a complex, multi-faceted person -- wife, mother, cat lover, sculptor, poet, philosopher, collage maker, motorcyclist, lecturer,

designer, traveler, gardener, gourmet cook, historian -- but most of all, she is human.

When looking for Craig Allen to notify him he had been selected as a finalist, he was difficult to find. Eventually he was found in Berlin, Germany, on a research trip for an historical novel he is writing. Two weeks later, he was back home, teaching Do-It-Yourselfers how to install ceramic tile at a Home Depot. It is quickly discovered it's hard to say exactly what he is or does.

Allen was born in Oregon in 1948, and despite the travels required by occupations since that time, he's never left. Some might say he has trouble holding a job, but Allen would simply tell you he has varied interests, and he's not afraid to explore them.

He has worked as a field engineer and installation supervisor for a company that designs and manufactures electronic and pipe organs, including in his instrument list several major installations. The job took him all around the country, including some visits to Minnesota and Carnegie Hall in that other New York. He left to become a general contractor, building and remodeling homes until the economy soured in 1980.

Craig also spent time teaching computer programming, managing a 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center, and overseeing Safety and Hazardous Materials for United Parcel Service before taking a position with Home Depot in Portland, Oregon.

Now, when he's not at work, he splits his time between his wood shop and writing, with the Berlin novel nearing completion (and hoping for publication) and several other projects in the works.

Allen has two children. His daughter, Jennifer, is a student at the University of Minnesota Law School, and his son, Christopher, works in fire restoration.

The full text of Cavaliere and Allen's essays is available at Information about the other two finalist debaters will follow next week.