This song speaks out against the US government under the Bush administration, and is a call for citizens to take action. Issues addressed include The Iraq war, the disparity between rich and poor, and gas prices. Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda described the song as a "big middle finger to George Bush."
Singer Mike Shinoda in Kerrang! magazine: "Rick [Rubin] said to us that, if something sounded like it needed rapping, then we should try singing and vice versa. That's why this song has rapping on it."
Originally Linkin Park had not planned to perform this song at their June 2008 Milton Keynes gig, which was recorded for the band's live album Road to Revolution: Live at Milton Keynes. Mike Shinoda explained to Rolling Stone how this tune ended up as part of their set: "We had put that song in the set and took it out because the chorus has 10 voices singing on it, and live it just never sounded right. But during the Milton Keynes show, there was a fan in front of the crowd who had a sign that said "Play 'Hands Held High.'" Halfway through, I thought, we can't play the song because we aren't prepared - but I can give him the first half. So I just threw the verse in a cappella. In fact, we added that verse to the set, so that kid's sign essentially changed the set for the rest of the year. It was really cool."
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