An Old Song Rises Up Again Now

In The ISIS Agreement, I write about the first time I used songs and songwriting in the context of giving a keynote speech. One of the songs from that time has come strongly into my mind these last days. Why?

Frankly, it’s not one of my best songs, as I would judge it now. The lyric is a bit melodramatic, the melody something like a cross between a hymn and a march, called “And We Rise.” I haven’t sung it in years, and it doesn’t appear on any of my CDs. It was my first attempt (at the request of Donella Meadows) to get the word “sustainability” into a song (actually, I only managed to get “sustain” into the lyric).

But when I agreed to substitute for Wangari Maathai as opening speaker for the 1992 International Conference of the Institute for Cultural Affairs, in Prague, I had to do something, I felt, to bring a feeling of inspiration into the room. That song was one of the results. The song was actually translated into Czech, and copies of the Czech and English text were included in the participant packets. At the end of my speech, all the delegates sang “And We Rise” with me … and they actually did rise.  (I joked later that it was my sneaky way to get a standing ovation.)

So why is the song coming back to mind, now? [read on to why out why and to see the text] …

Because it was written to provide solace and hope to my friends in Prague, and in the Balaton Group, for what felt like a journey into difficult times. Back then, the threat was more theoretical; these days, it feels all too concrete and real.  Back then, warnings abounded, species were disappearing, the ozone hole was a grave threat … but the North Pole was not obviously melting. People were not literally running from global warming-fueled fires and droughts and floods … as they are now.

Nor, back in 1992, did I have any children of my own. “And We Rise” makes explicit reference to making a stand “in the sight of our children’s eyes” to stop destruction, heal the Earth, and sustain all its people. Now I do have children — and as I continue to work on the challenges of sustainability, and to consult and write and even sing (routinely) about those challenges, I often wonder what my children will think about all this when they are old enough to really understand. And I often feel my motivation more and more tied to them, to their individual well-being and future, as as much as it is to the greater future of our planet, its life, all people.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this song in the future, but I thought I’d share the lyrics with you here …

And We Rise

Music and lyrics © 1992 by Alan AtKisson

In a time when the whole world trembles and moans
In a time when we face a dark unknown
In a time of confusion
When so many seem hypnotized
By a restless illusion
And when the truth has been disguised
By walls of delusion —
But it’s breaking out …

And we rise
In the sight of our children’s eyes
To preserve each sacred place
To sustain the human race
As the shadows start to fall
And we hear the planet’s call
We will stand and bear the light
We will shine with all our might
Oh!  We pledge our lives …

As the walls of the old world crumble down
We are called to turn our very lives around
A complete transformation
A kind of total rebirth
And the full retoration
Of the damage done to the Earth
The whole of Creation
Is crying out …


At the dawn of a new and a brighter day
We are drawn to the Truth that lights the way
And we don’t have to fear it
It’s the light of love that calls
It’s the sign of the spirit
Of the live that moves in us all
And as we get near it
It’s reaching out …


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