On February 24th, the Voice of America celebrates the 79th anniversary of its first broadcast.
In the dark, early days of the Second World War, the United States Government concluded that there was a need to counteract Nazi propaganda by establishing its own outlet, which would offer accurate and unbiased news and information. Thus, the Voice of America was founded on February 1, 1942, and broadcast its first 15-minute show, in German, on February 24th.
“Hier spricht die Stimme Amerika. Heute, und taeglich von Heute an... This is a voice speaking from America. Daily at this time we shall speak to you about America, and the war. The news may be good, or bad. We shall tell you the truth.”
From the beginning, the Voice of America has sought to provide a window into American life. Indeed, as required by law, the VOA must present accurate, objective, and comprehensive news; a balanced, comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions; as well as the policies of the United States.
It is the task of the Voice of America “to tell [America’s] story around the world,” said President John Kennedy on VOA’s 20th anniversary:
“This is an extremely difficult and sensitive task. On the one hand you are an arm of the Government and therefore an arm of the Nation, and it is your task to bring our story around the world in a way which serves to represent democracy and the United States in its most favorable light. But on the other hand, as part of the cause of freedom, and the arm of freedom, you are obliged to tell our story in a truthful way, to tell it, as Oliver Cromwell said about his portrait, "Paint us with all our blemishes and warts, all those things about us that may not be so immediately attractive."
"Forward . . . Forward. . . .40 feet down, 2 and a half. . . .picking up some dust . . . "
And so, people around the world heard the century’s great events on the Voice of America, including a record 615 million people who listened to the July 20, 1969, moon landing.
“Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed. . . "
As the State Department said in a tweet on February 1, 2021, “During its first broadcast VOA told listeners: ‘The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you the truth.’ From that broadcast to today, VOA has informed, engaged, and connected people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”