Spirit of Alumnus - Rosenthal '76 Awarded Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service
Robert Rosenthal '76 has been awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the highest accolade given to civilians for their support of the military. He was honored for creating the Spirit of America Tour, a non-profit organization that brings live entertainment to stateside military bases.
In 2000, after more than two decades as a civil litigator, Rosenthal was enjoying the beginning of his retirement. But then the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil made him realize that he still had work to do. "We live in the greatest country in the world," he said. "When 9/11 happened, I wanted to do something for America. The U.S.O. sends entertainers overseas. I wanted our military to know we support them at home, too."
He approached the Pentagon with his idea and along with his wife, Nina, put together several tryout shows, which attracted thousands of audience members. That was five and a half years ago, and since then, the Spirit of America Tour has brought 92 shows to American military bases throughout two-thirds of the country. These concerts have featured Emmy Lou Harris, Neil McCoy and the Charlie Daniels Band. In fact, Charlie Daniels was on hand to help celebrate Rosenthal's award, which Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England presented to him in July.
A graduate of the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Rosenthal had diverse and adventuresome careers before he became an attorney. This included working as a teenaged cowboy at an Arizona cattle ranch, a two-year stint as an active duty ROTC making movies for the Army Pictorial Center in New York, a Merrill Lynch broker, and a Hollywood film producer.
By the time he decided to go to law school, he was in his 30s and living in Los Angeles. "Southwestern was a major and integral part of my success in life," Rosenthal said. "I was much more relaxed as a lawyer than I was in the movie industry. I was lucky as a litigator, and I never had to take a case I couldn't win."
Working with the Spirit of America Tour is completely different than being a lawyer, with one exception. As a lawyer, Rosenthal had to convince judges and other attorneys to do or not do something, and as a tour producer, he has to persuade talent managers and agents to get entertainers to do shows for the military. "Most entertainers are charitable, but they have their pet causes," he said. "So we look for people who we know will have an interest in helping the military."