1960 : JFK Gave a Labor Day Speech in Cadillac Square

September 6, 2023 all-day

On September 6, 1960, a bushy haired U.S. senator with a New England accent came to Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit on Labor Day to deliver his first official campaign speech for president before a mass of people.

Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, was going up against Richard Nixon. At the time, Jimmy R. Hoffa was president of the Teamsters. Walter P. Reuther was head of the United Auto Workers.

Two months after the speech, Kennedy became the nation’s 35th president.

The website, the Pop History Dig, wrote of Kennedy:

By Labor Day 1960, when Kennedy formally kicked off his fall campaign in Michigan, his oratory skills had risen to peak form, hitting themes of universal appeal with new and vivid language, inspiring thousands with calls for a better America.

By late October, Russell Baker of the New York Times would observe: “…[I]n the last month he has flowered into a magnificent campaigner with a Pied Piper magic over the street crowds, and especially the ladies and with a considerable talent for what is ungraciously called rabble-rousing.”

For the full article, see “55 Years Ago, JFK Gave a Labor Day Speech in Cadillac Square”, Deadline Detroit, September 6, 2015.

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