Voice of Democracy (VOD) is an annual nationwide scholarship program sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). It is an audio-essay contest for high school students in grades 9-12. The program annually provides more than $2.3 million in scholarships. The first-place winner, who competes with all the first-place VFW Department (state) winners, receives a $30,000 scholarship that is paid directly to the recipient's American university, college or vocational/technical school.
Besides competing for the top scholarship prize, as well as other national scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, each Department's first-place winner receives an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in March (annually).
The Voice of Democracy Program began in 1946 and was originally sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters. Initially, there were four winners selected, representing the North, South, East and West regions of the country. Each winner received a $500 savings bond and a wristwatch. The second year of the program, a student by the name of Charles Kuralt, the late television news broadcaster and author, was one of the winners.
It is endorsed by the contest criteria of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and is designed to foster patriotism by allowing students the opportunity to voice their opinion in a three- to five-minute essay based on an annual theme. Historically, the Voice of Democracy theme (chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief annually) is purposely kept broad in scope to allow the participant flexibility in interpretation, and thus, encourage originality. The new theme is posted on the website by May of each year.
The audiotape or audio CD (with the typed essay recited word-for-word), the actual typed essay, and completed official student entry form must be delivered to a local, participating VFW Post by the student entry deadline of November 1.
Savannah Wittman, a senior at Bret Harte High School, was named the 2016-17 Voice of Democracy first-place winner. Savannah’s speech on the theme, “My Vision for America,” won her a $30,000 college scholarship which she plans to apply toward her career in veterinary medicine. Savannah was sponsored by VFW Post 12118 and its Auxiliary in Copperopolis, Calif.
Each year, nearly 38,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $2.2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition.
The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles.
The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each (state) VFW Department wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
A California student from Copperopolis was the first place winner of the 2016-17 contest.
YOU TOO CAN WIN $30,000!
WHO CAN ENTER The Voice of Democracy Program is open to students in grades 9-12 (on the Nov. 1 deadline), who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the United States and its territories.
HOW TO ENTER
Contact VFW Post 9934 for additional assistance and a copy of the entry form.
Telephone: (949) 248-1419
The 2017-18 theme is: American History: Our Hope for the Future
Students should record their reading of the draft to an audio CD or flash drive. The recording can be no shorter than three minutes and no longer than five minutes (plus or minus five seconds).
Entries begin at the Post level. Once the student creates their essay and completes burning the audio version to an audio CD/flash drive, they can submit their typed version, CD/flash drive and the Voice of Democracy entry form to VFW Post 9934 by the October 31 deadline.
Originality is worth 30 points: Treatment of the theme should show imagination and human interest.
Content is worth 35 points: Clearly express your ideas in an organized manner. Fully develop your theme and use transitions to move smoothly from one idea to the other.
Delivery is worth 35 points: Speak in a clear and credible manner
WHAT IS THE DEADLINE FOR MY ENTRY?
All entries competing at the Post level must be in the hands of that VFW Post by midnight, October 31, 2017. It is the responsibility of the student to meet this deadline by submitting their entry to the proper location.
VOD Prepares You for Life
For Stephanie D’Abruzzo Shemin, one-time Department of Pennsylvania winner, VOD was a milestone in her life.
“What VOD did was prepare me for college and the real world. I saw how I could find my place in this world outside the plastic bubble that is suburban public high school,” Shemin said. “Little did I know, while I was writing about America’s freedom and independence that it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life — one of personal freedom and independence.”
Shemin graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in speech. She is currently a Muppet performer with the Jim Henson Company, working for such shows as Sesame Street.
Meet People and Build Confidence
VOD enables you to meet your peers from all walks of life.
Furthermore, it can have a tremendous impact on your future.
“The whole Voice of Democracy program was an experience that still is with me,” said Gary Belkin, a national VOD winner. “I’m now 36, a psychiatrist and ethicist at Harvard and Brown Medical schools where I teach, and also am finishing a doctorate in history at Harvard.”
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has again approved this contest for its National Advisory List of Contests and Activities.