This song, in which the Kings of Leon evoke an America on its knees, was the band's first political song. Frontman Caleb Followill explained to The Daily Telegraph September 17, 2008: "It honestly feels as if America has to learn how to crawl again before it can walk tall." He added: "In (Biblical) prophecy, it says at the end of days there will be wars and rumors of wars. Look at all the hurricanes and earthquakes and everything that's going on, to me its almost like what has been done in America has brought on the feeling of a religious war, and along with that a lot of other prophecies are coming to pass. It scares me."
Caleb joked to Rolling Stone magazine about this song's political stance: "Let's just say that Sean Penn is gonna like us more."
Caleb told Uncut magazine October 2008 the background to this song: "I think that just came from us being a band that pretty much grew up in Europe, and we couldn't really enjoy the success that we had because every time we went to a restaurant, everyone looked at us like we were these people that came from a country that supported war and supported all the terrible, terrible decisions and mistakes that were goin' on in America. Everyone in f--king country music and Green Day and all these other people were writing songs about America, so we refused to write anything political. But I always knew if I wanted to ever do it, I was going to do it like Rage Against the Machine - it wasn't going to be some ballad. If you really believe in something, you should be able to scream it from a mountain. But all of my songs are about five different things, usually. It's just talking about how someone can just come in and f--k everything up and then they're gone, and everyone else has to deal with the consequences."
"St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" was not written for the movie, but for Rick Hanson, a wheelchair athlete whose 1985 "Man In Motion" tour logged 24,856 miles on his wheelchair in 34 countries while raising $26 million for spinal cord research.