Voice of Democracy
Established in 1947, our Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, nearly 40,000 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of $2.1 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program.
The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. A complete list of other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each VFW Department (state) wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Want to apply? Read the rules and eligibility requirementsand download the entry form and brochure before you submit your entry at your local VFW Post.
The 20120-21 theme is:
Is This the Country The Founders Envisioned?
About the 2019-20 winner ...
Shruthi Kumar, a high school senior from Marian High School in Omaha, Nebraska, was named the 2019-20 Voice of Democracy first place winner. Shruthi's speech on the theme, "What Makes America Great," won her a $30,000 college scholarship. Shruthi was sponsored by VFW Post 1581 in Omaha, Nebraska. Watch as Shruthi delivered her winning speech during the Parade of Winners ceremony at the 2020 VFW Legislative Conference.
Want to catch up on everything that happened this year? You can watch the Parade of Winners ceremony from the 2020 VFW Legislative Conference, see this year's complete list of winners, or listen to the winning essay from your state.
Each year more than 132,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. The first-place winner from each state competes for national awards totaling $54,500, with each first-place state winner receiving a minimum of $500 at the national level.
The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief. Want to apply? Read the rules and eligibility requirements and download the entry form and brochure before submitting your entry to your local VFW Post.
The 2020-2021 theme is:
What is Patriotism to Me?
About the 2019-20 winner ...
Ruby Howe, a seventh grade student from Rochester Hills, Michigan, was named the 2019-20 Patriot's Pen first place winner. Her essay on the theme, "What Makes America Great," won her a $5,000 award. Ruby was sponsored by VFW Post 334 in Lake Orion, Michigan.
Watch as Ruby delivered her winning essay, or see the complete list of 2020 national winners.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals has placed this program on the NASSP National Advisory List of Contests and Activities for 2016-17. We thank all of America's teachers and youth leaders for the time, effort and commitment they invest in our young people each year. We have a number of ways in which to assist you in helping to ensure your students get a head start on their future.