On Sept. 25, 1960, John F. Kennedy was the featured speaker at the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party’s “Steer Roast.” It wasn’t actually a roast; just a day for a party faithful to gather at Euclid Beach Park on Cleveland’s East Side.
It was the third consecutive year Kennedy spoke at the event, and in that span, he’d gone from the “glamour boy of U.S. politics,” which The Plain Dealer had called him in 1958, to the Democratic candidate for president.
Kennedy flew into the lakefront airport (it would be named in honor of former Mayor Thomas Burke the following month), met with elected officials and spoke at the Hollenden Hotel. He then was driven in a convertible 200 blocks east to the amusement park, through streets lined with cheering fans. Cleveland officials said they hadn’t seen anything like it since President Franklin D. Roosevelt a generation earlier, and Russell Baker of The New York Times noted it was particularly impressive given that the Browns were on television that afternoon. (They pounded the Philadelphia Eagles, who went on to win the NFL title that year.)
In his speech, Kennedy went on the offensive against Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, in anticipation of their debate the following night — the first to be televised. And he noted the importance of Ohio, saying, “I think the next President of the United States will carry Ohio, and we have to carry it.”
Kennedy won the election — but Nixon won Ohio. On election night, when that became clear, Kennedy rolled up his sleeve to display a hand and forearm swollen from shaking hands. “Ohio did that to me,” he said.
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