Noting that "we have the right people here in this room to make a difference," and promising her full commitment to the fight to make Louisiana better than ever, New Orleans Saints Owner Gayle Benson on Friday said differences must be set aside and unity formed in order for the state to solve the issues that it's facing.
Benson was the keynote speaker at the 2023 Washington Mardi Gras Economic Development Lunch, themed "The Steel Magnolia" and chaired by Congresswoman Julia Letlow, who represents Louisiana's 5th Congressional District.
"It was great opportunity to spend time with our legislators and to share our vision for working together to build commerce and create economic development," said Benson, who is also the governor of the New Orleans Pelicans.
"The message was hope and that if we all work together, we can accomplish many positive things."
Benson's speech was delivered in the Columbia Ballroom of the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., before approximately 1,000 people. Attendees included all the members of Louisiana's congressional delegation, business leaders from across the state, chambers of commerce from every region in the state and elected officials throughout the state.
"I think we can all agree that we are at a critical juncture in our state relative to crime, a lack of quality education, infrastructure and other significant challenges," she said in her address. "Now more than ever we must put aside our differences and work together to solve the many issues that our state is now facing.
"I simply ask that when we leave this weekend of fellowship and fun, that we take to heart the opportunity, and necessity, of working together toward our common goal of making Louisiana the best state in our country. We need to be innovative and creative – qualities that have long defined Louisiana – but we cannot do it without everyone joining together."
While taking into account her own numerous business ventures – including Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Chevrolet dealerships, a recently opened Mercedes Sprinter Van Store, the recently acquired Corporate Realty, and the launching of a $50 million capital fund, Benson Capital Partners, two years ago – Benson lauded the spirit of creativity, leadership, innovation and passion as reasons she remains optimistic and driven to continue investing in new and innovative business opportunities in the state.
"I'm very hopeful," she said, referring to the camaraderie suggested. "And that was demonstrated by all of the conversations I had today."
Benson's late husband, Tom Benson, served as king of Washington Mardi Gras in 1989. The Mystic Krewe of Louisianans chose Friday to have a business luncheon, with The Steel Magnolia theme to highlight women who are leading Louisiana.
"The truth is that I am driven by a deep sense of responsibility and purpose to help and make sure that our city, state and region are competitively viable," Benson said. "I am well aware of how blessed I have been. That is not only important to me but to everyone in our organizations."
Benson also commended Letlow for creating the Hope in Action Scholarship Fund, designed to assist with educational expenses for children who have lost a parent to Covid-19, and made a personal $100,000 donation to the fund.