Protesters interrupted a speech being given by Sunoco Inc. chairman and chief executive Lynn L. Elsenhans at a luncheon at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Thursday afternoon.
The head of the Philadelphia oil refiner and marketer was being honored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce with its Paradigm Award, given to a businesswoman whose accomplishments are seen as a model of success.
As Elsenhans began her speech, several protesters who'd been seated in the ballroom stood and walked toward the podium, carrying a sign, as another addressed the audience of about 750 people by asking, "Does anyone see a leader here?"
Elsenhans remained silent as the protesters, who later identified themselves as being with the community group Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, were escorted from the ballroom.
When she resumed, her remarks about the need for women in the workplace to identify mentors, take risks, persevere and give back to others. Her speech was interrupted several more times as individual protesters stood and talking to the crowd about layoffs at Sunoco conducted during Elsenhans tenure and other issues.
After the event, Elsenhans declined to comment through a company spokesman, Thomas Golembeski. One of only 15 women to run a Fortune 500 company, Elsenhans rarely gives speeches. Golembeski said Elsenhans was honored to be chosen by the chamber to receive its 19th annual Paradigm Award, noting that she is a role model for others.
Immediately following her speech, chamber President Rob Wonderling told the audience: "We believe in free enterprise. We believe in free speech when exercised with civility. In our 2011 Paradigm Award winner, you saw civility in action."