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Walking among about 50 tables scattered throughout the Chattanooga Convention Center's ballroom, Janice Bryant Howroyd explained what it means to be empowered.

Never once approaching the podium at the front of the room, the Los Angeles businesswoman spoke to about 400 people attending the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga's 28th annual Equal Opportunity Day Breakfast on Friday.

"I had some really great notes, and a really great speech," she said as she paced through the crowd, holding up her notes for emphasis. "But I've got to talk to you from my heart right now."

URBAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

* Corporate Leadership Award: Volkswagen

* Vision Award: Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga

* Whitney M. Young Jr. Award: John P. Franklin Sr.

Sharing personal experiences from her 30 years in business as founder and chief executive of a $1 billion personnel staffing company, Howroyd served as the key speaker for the local Urban League's premier event of the year.

Warren E. Logan Jr., president of the local chapter, said the annual breakfast is a platform to recognize companies and individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity. He said Chattanooga is in a unique situation right now, in that it's one of just a few places in the country that has upward economic momentum.

"We have a lot going on, and a lot of people around the world are beginning to take note of Chattanooga, Tenn.," Logan told the crowd.

Howroyd seemed to agree, saying that with the number of professionals and corporations in the area, she can tell "Chattanooga is on the move."

She said she hoped those attending would come away with the knowledge that to support the community also means supporting the country as a whole.

"We all want the same things - education, motivation, to be motivating, to own some stuff and to own ourselves," Howroyd said. "We've got to be enthusiastic, not brought down. Where I'm from, news is good news, but right now it seems like it's all bad news. Turn it around, Urban League. Turn it around."

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