Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, Phoenix House Founder, Dies at 87
PHOENIX, Ariz.—Mitchell Rosenthal, an early and outspoken leader in the effort to end the Vietnam War for the United States, died on March 9 in Phoenix. He was 87.
In the early 1960s, having just completed his medical training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Rosenthal was assigned to teach psychiatry at the University of Virginia, where he was a pioneer in the use of humanistic psychology to address the psychiatric needs of the Vietnam War.
A decade after his Virginia assignment, Rosenthal became a full-time activist in Phoenix, Arizona, an Arizona city that, at that time, was the nation’s most conservative and anti-war city.
The move to Phoenix was not simply a political movement, as Rosenthal and the Phoenix Phoenix Foundation were also well aware that the anti-war movement had grown out of the anti-war movement that had swept the Vietnam War years.
“If you want to stop an unjust war with enough people working together,” Rosenthal told me in 1997, when we met on a lecture tour to promote the Phoenix Foundation’s efforts in the anti-war movement, “you have to give up all hope and give in.”
For Rosenthal, that was always the case.
In 1967, just as the United States was trying to get into Vietnam, Rosenthal wrote an anti-war song in the New York Public Library, the last stop on a ten-nation speaking tour that he was then embarking on.
“In My Humble Opinion,” the song reads, “We’re in Vietnam, we’ll lose, we’ll lose, and we’ll lose.”
The next day, the song appeared not in the press but in the Library, to see if it would help the cause of peace.
“It is a call to arms of the peace movement: ‘Stop the war!’” Rosenthal wrote at the top of the song. It had been published with the Library’s permission, but had been banned from circulation for three months, as such songs were not permitted to be sung in the library, even on its own grounds.
It was a watershed moment in the anti-war movement.
At the time, most Americans could still remember, from history books written long after the fact