Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $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.

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

Go to www.vfw.org/Community/Voice-of-Democracy to access the Voice of Democracy 2015-16 entry form and brochure.

If you experience problems downloading or printing the application, please try to access the entry form using Internet Explorer. If you continue to experience problems, please contact the VFW National Headquarters at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance.

The 2015-16 theme is: My Vision for America

Students should record their reading of the draft to an audio CD or flash drive. The recording can be no shorter than 3 minutes and no longer than 5 minutes (plus or minus 5 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 their local participating VFW Post by the Nov. 1 deadline.

JUDGING CRITERIA

  • 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.

Read the previous winning essay from 2014. For more information, see www.vfw.org/Community/Voice-of-Democracy.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY