Speech stirs controversy in business community

By Tracy Clemons

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA)- A speech given at a Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday has stirred up some controversy.

The head of the Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce, Booker White, says the keynote address at last week's Industry and Small Business of the Year luncheon quickly turned political. White says he felt like he was at a TEA Part Rally, not the celebration of the area's small businesses.

"He said 'how many in the room would love for the Republicans to take over the house?'" Lots of heavy hand claps. Lots. Then he says 'how many here would like the democrats to keep the house?'"

The speaker was Frank Luntz, a nationally known political pundit.

"When the chamber made this selection, we thought, and still do, that he would bring some keen insight during the election season," says Chairman of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, Eric Barkley.

"The speaker did a great job of just upsetting people to the point of storming out," White says.

Barkley tells us the speech went much deeper than politics - "He also talked about how to communicate more effectively. He talked about how we can better respect and understand each other. He talked about the value of the family, and he talked about how to raise successful kids."

Booker White had already walked out by the time Luntz got to that part, but he says the chamber should keep the politics out---period.

"Bring in who you want to bring in, but make sure you give them a script that he leave out politics and religion."

The Greater Chamber says they regret that anyone was offended.

"We don't ever want anyone to be uncomfortable at our programs. We are not a political organization that looks at democrat or republican. We are a business organization," says Barkley.

Barkley adds that he has spoken with several people from the African American Chamber since the luncheon, and he plans to continue the dialogue.

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