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 October 31.