“Dialogue” by Chicago – a reprise of a much needed conversation

Robert Lamm, of the wonderful band Chicago, penned a song about fifty years ago called “Dialogue” that could still ring true today. The song resonates with me and is one of my personal favorites of the band because of its theme and musicality, but also the fact Lamm and lead singer Peter Cetera sang it as a dialogue. Two guys talking about the problems in the world. Here are the words:

Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all
Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?
No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all
When it’s time to function as a feeling human being
Will your bachelor of arts help you get by?
I hope to study further, a few more years or so
I also hope to keep a steady high
Will you try to change things
Use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?

I always thought that everything was fine
Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
No, the campus here is very, very free
Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Well, I hope the president knows what he’s into, I don’t know
Don’t you ever see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?
I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
But my neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time

Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come
Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine

We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

I heard this song the other day on the radio for the first time in a long while and listened with my daughter as we drove to school. I found myself pointing out how the song is sung and called a dialogue. She thought that was cool. But, it got me thinking about the words. The problems then still exist today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have a national and global poverty problem. I am glad Pope Francis is bringing attention to this more.

We have a national and global problem with how we treat women and girls. Former President Jimmy Carter’s said his new book “A Call to Action” on this issue is the most important mission of his life. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky” speaks to these issues as well. I would add global poverty and how we treat women are linked, as woman hold up “half the sky” per the Chinese proverb used by Kristof and WuDunn. If you treat women poorly, in addition to their maltreatment, you are impacting half of your intellectual capital and economic value as a community.

Per my blogging friend George Dowdell, through his vast experience on a mission to help the impoverished, global poverty is also directly traceable to violence and corruption. Corruption takes the money that could be used to help others and violence is the mechanism to keep control and keep others down. These two seem to go hand in hand. Deposed leader Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had a net worth of $81 Billion, while his constituents got by on less than $2 a day, e.g.

Throughout history, the “haves” have taken advantage of the “have-nots.” The “have-nots” do not have a voice or when they have, it has taken a huge effort over time to change the paradigm. It is only with this groundswell of effort that will help change the world. Per Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So, back to Chicago’s song “Dialogue.” Re-read the final chorus that closes the song. It is repeated as a mantra over and over again. The influence of the “haves” is huge and, in the US has been made easier with recent Supreme Court rulings. The “have-nots” need that voice. They need those committed citizens that Mead and Chicago talked about.

How do we do this? One step, one block, one community, one city at a time. Find your passions and reach out to help others. But, don’t just band-aid a problem. Look to find ways to improve people’s lots in life. Become better informed through reputable news sources. Speak out against injustice or just start asking more “why” questions of leaders and people with strident views that seem harmful. Why do you think that? Why should we do that? Write letters, write emails, make phone calls. Go to events to educate yourself on an issue. Go to protest injustice.

Many of the leaders of efforts to help did not listen to naysayers and blockers who said they could not accomplish change. There is an old line about change. Get people on the bus that will help you make change, not hinder it. We are more powerful than me. So, enlist or join your efforts with others. The operative word is “we” – “we can make it happen.” But, it starts with me.


15 thoughts on ““Dialogue” by Chicago – a reprise of a much needed conversation

  1. I love the song, but it misses a key point. Change is happening. The question is not inducing change; we actually have no choice is the matter. Rather, it’s about shaping change to make the world a better place rather than a war zone or empty shell. We have a host of deniers, people who want the world the way it was 20 or 30 or 50 years ago. They are frustrated and angry about the loss of that time, which is gone forever, rather than focusing on what happens next. It’s this absence of hope that makes them dangerous. (Arguably, the core MAGA message was about making time go backwards.)

    • Vic, well said. This “antebellum” nostalgia (I like that word in a general sense)is an obstacle to thoughtful change. Yet, it is a horse-with-blinders lens of the past through the eyes of one primary demographic group. As Billy Joel sang, “the good ol days weren’t always good, and the bad ain’t as bad as it seems.


  2. A powerful post, a powerful song. You’re right, Keith … it starts with me. Alone, we may not accomplish much, but the power of the people has changed the course of history throughout the centuries. My own post this afternoon will address how some today are trying to ‘turn back the hands of time’, to undo the progress of the last 70 years or so. We must stand for something … we must CARE about the state of not only our own nation, but the larger global community. And it all starts with us … with you and with me.

  3. I am listening to the song right now. I have never heard it before. What a truth in it and motivation to stand up and take the first steps towards a change.
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I couldn’t agree more, Keith!! Every little action creates ripples.

  4. Note to Readers: When people ask “how do I get started volunteering to help?” I share a piece of advice I learned – follow your passion. If you enjoy helping kids, volunteer at understaffed schools to read, tutor or as my wife says give kids “a soft place to land.” If you like helping older people, go to any long term care facility and visit with, sing to or play music for the residents. If you like helping people with disabilities, there are plenty of places to help. And, so on. I personally got involved with helping homeless people because a friend called me looking for volunteers, ironically the week after I finished reading John Grisham’s “Street Lawyer” about an attorney who gave up a lucrative law career to help provide legal counsel to homeless people.

    Finally, help people network, review resumes, make introductions, practice interviewing, etc. for people who have exhausted or have no network. Trust me on this, the psychic income to you for helping will be great.

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